A study, published in today's Australasian Psychiatry journal, found that teens who listen to pop music are more likely to be struggling with their sexuality, those tuning in to rap or heavy metal could be having unprotected sex and drink-driving, and those who favour jazz are usually misfits and loners, prompting a call for doctors to include musical tastes as a diagnostic indicator in mental health assessments.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the type of music you listen to will cause you to commit suicide, but those who are vulnerable and at risk of committing suicide may be listening to certain types of music," the author of the study, Felicity Baker, said yesterday.
Yes, Baker does seem to have concluded - albeit without showing working - that the answer to the High Fidelity conundrum is that you listen to depressing music because you're depressed. But there's "no evidence" that listening to one genre of music will make you kill yourself. She can't stress that strongly enough.
But not so strongly she wouldn't suggest that doctors include a quick run through of what's on your iPod before deciding if you should be sectioned.
Now, we've always tended to assume that people who wear t-shirts promoting certain bands are basically crying for help - we'd donate heavily to anyone collecting to give Kasabian fans kittens to hug, for example - but this sort of reductive nonsense, which we'd suggest seems to be little more than putting on a white coat to trot out some stereotypes, is going a little far.
But, still, it's in a respected journal and so must be based on some long-term, in-depth, carefully-constructed studies, right?
She said an Australian study of year 10 students had shown significant associations between heavy metal music and suicide ideation, depression, delinquency and drug-taking, while an American study had also shown that young adults who regularly listened to heavy metal had a higher preoccupation with suicide and higher levels of depression than their peers.
So, the bulk of this work has been done on Year 10 students - not, then, by asking adults with mental health issues what music they listened to in their youth as a comparison, for example. Or by tracking people over a long period of time. And how can they be sure that people who choose to listen to a loud, "outlaw"-themed musical genre might just not be more comfortable talking about their suicidal feelings, than, say, indie-pop kids? Or more likely to try and shock by claiming to take drugs?
It does throw up interesting possibilities of medical negligence cases in the future hanging on the mis-diagnosis of a patient's favourite bands - "Goth? Did you really believe late-period Cult to be Goth, Doctor McMurray? Even a year two medical student would have seen Astbury had shifted to full-on cock-rock and diagnosed severe mental trauma in this patient..."
The sane last word, though, goes to Michael Bowden, a child psychiatrist and the head of medical programs at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry:
"The key to understanding any teenager is to treat them with respect by listening to what they have to say, rather than typecasting them according to the type of music they listen to," he said.
But then he would say. You know what namby-pambies these opera lovers are.
No Rock And Roll Fun
* Slayer Rules, Sanna Charles' photos of Slayer fans