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Under the Influence of Bad Music

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Teenagers listen to 2.5 hours of music per day according to a 2008 report from The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. And of those 2.5 hours, one in three songs contain explicit references to drug or alcohol use, which, if you do the math, that’s about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music kids listen to.

And if you think about the growing availability to musical devices -- iPods, iPads, CDs, TVs, smartphones, etc. -- that’s a whole lot of hours listening to music individualized and isolated ... potentially music parents don’t approve of but have no control over.

In 2008, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied the 279 most popular songs from 2005, and found that 20 percent of R and B and hip hop songs had references to alcohol, 36 percent for country songs and 77 percent for rap songs.

And “although music lacks the visual element of film, adolescent exposure to music is much more frequent, accounting for an average of 16 hours each week for music compared with about 6 hours each week for movie images, according to the study authors. But frequency of exposure is not the only factor. Unlike visual media, music is a powerful social force that also taps into an individual’s personal identity, memories and mood,” according to a New York Times review of the study.

We know our children are listening to more music than ever before, but more importantly, they’re listening to music we have less control over.

“Alcohol brand references in songs were commonly associated with wealth (63 percent), sex (59 percent), luxury objects (51 percent), partying (49 percent), other drugs (44 percent) and vehicles (39 percent), according to the report published in the Oct. 20 online edition of the journal Addiction,” according to a release on the study.

So who’s to blame for the alcohol-filled music references? Not the music, the music industry claims.

“According to the authors, most instances of brand-name references in song lyrics seem to be unsolicited and unpaid for by advertising companies,” as explained in a release on the study.

However, the authors say that “the line between paid advertising and brand references is difficult to distinguish because advertising companies have begun retroactively to reward artists with product, sponsorship, or endorsement deals after a song containing their product's name becomes popular.”

Whether the inclusion of alcohol references is premeditated or simply a byproduct of an artist’s affiliation and appreciation for an alcohol brand, it is a very real and very constant theme in the lives of American youth.


Music Aimed At Teens Often Promotes Drinking. HealthDay. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=657971

Study of US popular music links luxury alcohol brands with degrading sex. EurekAlert. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

Under the Influence ... of Music? NYTimes.com. Web. 22 Oct. 2011. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/under-the-influence-ofmusic

Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.

Reviewed October 24, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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