Susan’s Music Talk: How Thinking Affects Heart Rates


So check out this article I came across today. It says that:

Listening to stressful or disturbing music can be bad for the heart, according to a new study. An American investigation found that genres like heavy metal narrowed arteries and made people more anxious, where as “joyful” music improved blood flow.

John Denver-style country music was found to be the most uplifting.

Okay, sure. Pounding drums and throbbing bass and screaming guitars require thicker skin. I can see that.

But John Denver?

Ever seen me twitch when that man’s music comes on? No offense; a lot of it is good stuff. But… I’m a metal head for a reason, folks. It speaks to me. Hell, it soothes me.

(remind me to tell you about the time I was pregnant with #1 and went to the OB right after listening to Ride the Lightning and my heart rate was so LOW, the Tour Manager asked how I was managing to be upright. “I’m mellow,” I told him. And I was.)

Okay, so fine. Whatever. Heavy metal = bad.

Read on, grasshopper:

The study asked the 10 healthy, non-smoking volunteers to avoid listening to their favourite music to minimise “emotional desensitisation”.

Then, after two weeks, when they listened to music they liked “they would get an extra boost of whatever emotion was being generated,” Dr Miller said.

The results found that volunteers’ arteries opened 26% wider on average during music they liked but narrowed by 6% when “anxious” music was played.

Now wait a minute. Wait one cotton-picking minute here.

Notice how we’re not talking about genre anymore, but about what the listener finds enjoyable?

Think we have a scientist who’s making the assumption that no one likes heavy metal, and that everyone on the planet finds metal “anxious” (whatever the hell that means)? Think we have some BIAS going on, boys and girls?


Don’t let the headline pull you in. Read the details.


(I saw this study posted here, at They quote the source as this place, although I think there ought to be somewhere else… like where the study was originally published.)



  1. Breeni Books

    November 12, 2008 8:49 pm

    It’s just like the fact that they use heavy metal to torture detainees. These people believe that type of music is evil, so of course they’re going to object to listening to it and have negative reactions. Now, if you play gospel music to me, you’re creating the same atmosphere…:PBR/BR/I won’t say that heavy metal soothes me, but I don’t listen to it when I need to relax. I listen when I want a boost of energy or some “get up and go” encouragement. It’s going to be different for everyone. But if you buy into the media’s depiction of metal, way back to the Satan worshiping scares of the 80’s, it’s going to make you anxious.

  2. spyscribbler

    November 12, 2008 10:17 pm

    I went to a chiropractor’s office awhile back, and was forced to listen to Christian pop easy-listening rock, whatever it was. The music was just plain awful, terrible, gag me with a spoon.BR/BR/After he finally let me in nearly an hour later, he took my blood pressure. It was 128 over 100.BR/BR/NEVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE has my blood pressure EVER been over 100. Never! Not either number!BR/BR/So I’m with you. I’d have been much more relaxed if it had been heavy metal, even though I’m not crazy about it. 🙂

  3. gautami tripathy

    November 12, 2008 10:45 pm

    It is lot of hogwash! BR/BR/Only way I can calm my turbulent mind is by listening to heavy metal.

  4. L^2

    November 12, 2008 11:47 pm

    Haha, I read this article earlier today and thought of you… thought you might have something to say about it. 🙂

  5. Angel

    November 13, 2008 12:32 am

    My husband loves heavy metal, and hates Denver. He wouldn’t like this test at all. BR/BR/I listen to country music mostly, but do like softer rock. Have no idea what it’s doing to my arteries…lol

  6. bunnygirl

    November 13, 2008 12:46 am

    I was at Walgreen’s last Sunday, where they were playing excerpts from Sappiest Love Songs Ever Recorded. Oh, it was awful! I concluded it was a testimony to the courage of the human spirit that those poor people working in that place for 40 hours a week hadn’t committed murder or suicide! Standing in the checkout lane while someone bickered endlessly with the cashier over the sale ad and that horrible music going on and on and on made me understand how an animal caught in a trap can chew its own leg off.BR/BR/The music that sends one person into bliss can set another person’s teeth on edge. It sounds like you’ve run across the second example this week of Statistics Gone Bad.

  7. Beat Black

    November 13, 2008 1:09 am

    thats hilarious. It reminds me of the “scientists” who say that the dinosaurs drowned in the flood of noahs arc. BR/BR/…okay so its not the same but sounds like both people are ridiculous and way wrong.

  8. Shelley Munro

    November 13, 2008 4:00 am

    John Denver? Yikes. Listening to him sing makes me feel anxious. The music like to listen to makes us feel good. It’s a personal thing.

  9. Bob-kat

    November 13, 2008 7:33 am

    Definitely! Question everything I say. Delve deeper and scratch below the surface. BR/BR/I’ve been a metal head and rock lover since my early teens (much to my parents chagrin) and it spoke to me in a way that other music could never do. It still does. I find many genres superficial and souless but metal has heart! Some people though just don’t get it. Some of these people feel they must put it down and some people try and sue Judas Priest for inciting devil worship. It’s always been a misunderstood genre. This study is just an extension of that. The scientist is overlaying their view onto the results I think.

  10. Moondancer

    November 13, 2008 9:33 am

    This definatly makes ya think don’t it? If it means anything my sone like listening to my classic metal with me and he’s 9. Doesn’t seem to hurt him any. I do keep the music low to save his tenger ears. He’d make the cutest rock star with his blond hair that goes to him mid back.

  11. Anna

    November 13, 2008 10:32 am

    Woah…is it bad that my daughter loves “Iron Man” and “Breaking the Law?” (Okay, no comments on the last one! LOL)BR/BR/Seriously, heavy metal always causes controversy. I don’t know why it bothers people so much. I listen to a variety of music based on my mood, and if you put my iPod on shuffle you’d go from Ozzy to Rascal Flatts to Sarah Brightman. LOLBR/BR/If I had to stand in that store listening to cheesy soft rock love songs all day long, I think I’d drop dead.BR/BR/–AnnaBR/A HREF=”” REL=”nofollow”Diary of an Eccentric/A

  12. Susan Helene Gottfried

    November 13, 2008 10:37 am

    Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law…BR/BR/Where’s my motorcycle and black leather vest?BR/BR/*grin*BR/BR/Woman, I bought earrings because they reminded me of a Judas Priest album cover! And when #1 was born, the only thing that soothed him was Metallica! You really think I’m going to make fun of your daughter over Priest???

  13. karen!

    November 13, 2008 10:51 am

    I’m sure this admission will forever change the way that you look at me, but… I actually like John Denver. I grew up listening to him (my mom is a fan). I like his good stuff and I think his bad stuff is so bad that it’s good.

  14. Thomma Lyn

    November 13, 2008 1:47 pm

    Absolutely: think, question. Interpretations of “anxious” music will vary across the board.BR/BR/And yup, it sounds like the scientist in question is assuming that nobody likes heavy metal.BR/BR/*beep*, wrong answer!BR/BR/Heavy metal pumps me up, energizes me. All music I love (and there are many kinds of music I love) energizes and inspires me, but each in its unique way. BR/BR/Playing my piano is a particular bliss. Music has been a cherished refuge for me since I could walk.BR/BR/Music I dislike (i.e. cookie cutter crap like Britney Spears) doesn’t narrow my arteries because I don’t listen to it! 😉

  15. confused

    November 13, 2008 4:34 pm

    you will never convince me that listening to Willie and Waylon are bad for me..:))

  16. pussreboots

    November 13, 2008 7:59 pm

    Sure… I like John Denver in small doses but too much in a row and I’m ready kill.BR/BR/I had some heavy metal on my ipod when I was in hospital having my youngest. I also had some electronic, punk, big band, 1920s blues and show tunes. My tastes are all over the map.

  17. Toni

    November 13, 2008 8:07 pm

    Very good point Susan!!! Always check the details!

  18. Julia Smith

    November 14, 2008 12:24 am

    Hard core country music would make me talk when no other torture would break me.

  19. Alice Audrey

    November 14, 2008 9:49 am

    Yeah, I’d say there was some bias going on. Frankly, if you study studies you can almost always find bias of some sort. This was was a bit more fish0in-the-face than usual.

  20. shaunesay

    November 15, 2008 12:30 am

    Hey now, don’t be bashing my John Jimber! I grew up listening to him! Guess I couldn’t say Denver when I was little, so John Jimber it was, and he was my favorite for a long time! 😉 And he goes just fine with Queensryche and Dream Theater and many others! 😀

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