Relationship between music and suicides in teens

As peoples’ ideologies and values have changed, styles of music have changed as well.  In the 1960’s rocks message was all about being free spirited and living life to the fullest.  When you jump to the 1990’s we see a change to a grunge message that no one understands teens, and life has little meaning.  This certainly paints a darker picture, but can we actually link this change in musics message to a growing rate in teen suicides?  suicide rates

This graph, courtesy of the American Journal of Public Health, shows us that rates in suicide in people ages 15-24 have been on the general incline from 1970-2002.  How could this have happened?  Whats changed in society that could possibly explain this dismal statistic?

As it turns out, you don’t have to look for the answer very far.  You’re looking at it right now as you are reading this.  These past decades have seen an unprecedented rate of change in society due to one thing in particular: globalization. Just look at how much technology alone has developed! For the first time beginning in the 60’s, kids could turn their TV’s on and watch programs like this CBS news special broadcast soldiers actually fighting and dying in war.

Next we see a rise in the internet, only furthering teens’ ability to see just how scary the world is.  Not only that but with the invention of the likes of twitter, people could share their thoughts no matter how frightening.


This rise in interconnectedness also brought a rise in pressure.  Kids are held to higher expectations today than they have ever been.  Which is crippling in itself let alone the fact that these kids are still trying to figure out who they are themselves!  They’re finding out what they want to do in life, and what kind of a person they are.  And if that doesn’t match up with whats gonna make them money or what mom and dad want then thats too bad!  Just listen to the difference in message between this Beatles song and Green Day song and ask yourself who sounds happier.  

When teens have screwed up or feel lost, one of the first things they go to is music.  Again, it makes us all feel like someone is empathizing with us. People bond over their love of a type of music and identities are formed.  What worries people is when the music that bonds these kids talks about hopelessness and depression most notably in the “Goth” and “Emo” scene. Author of the book Sells like teen Spirit Ryan Moore describes his high school experience with these groups as he explains:

Some of my friends had dropped out or been kicked out of school, and a few were on their way to becoming teenage parents. It became very common for me to see people who were developing serious alcohol or drug problems, were angry or violent in a way that made it risky to hang out with them, or had contemplated or attempted suicide.

What people don’t understand is these subcultures that form provide teens the outlet they need to get through the rigors that being a teen brings today.  Sure, we may see teens wearing all black and blasting hateful depressing music.  They may even be more prone to danger.  But these groups are at a lower risk of suicide than they would be if they were alone because that is their avenue of self expression. Music is not the cause of these increases in suicides but rather it prevents an even more drastic rise.   Imagine what would happen if they kept these feelings bottled up and didn’t have anyone else to talk to.  These groups provide a place for teens to feel like they belong; a place where they can talk about their feelings and have their voices heard.

Works Cited

Aad0dl. “Green Day- Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrucs.” Youtube, Youtube, LLC, 16 January 2010. Web. 26 April 2015.

Broken. “isnt it weird when you have already planned your own suicide” 21 April 2015, 6:03 PM.  Tweet.

McKeown, R. E., Seven Cuffe, and Richard Schulz. “US Suicide Rates By Age Group, 1970-2002: An Examination Of Recent Trends.” American Journal of Public Health 96.10 (2006): 1744-751. National Center for Biotechnology Information. National Institute of Health. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

Mnet117. “The Beatles- Here Comes The Sun.” Youtube, Youtube, LLC, 9 September 2011. Web. 26 April 2015.

Moore, Ryan. “Hell Awaits.” Sells like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis. New York: New York UP, 2010. Ebook.

Vault, Nuclear. “Vietnam Special (1967).” Youtube. Youtube, LLC, 27 October 2011. Web. 26     April 2015.


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