Depression Symptoms Relationship With Music Use: Investigating the Role of Trait Affect, Musical Ability, Music Preferences

Sai Charan Kanagala, Thomas Schäfer, David M. Greenberg, Anna Gabińska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People across cultures often use music to evoke positive emotions and moods. Yet, some people tend to employ maladaptive strategies such as rumination, avoidant coping, or social isolation when they listen to music. The present research investigated how strongly maladaptive musical engagement is linked with depression and wellbeing in a sample of 1415 Indians (17–65 years) across four cities and two countries. Participants completed a battery of assessments on trait affect, depression, adaptive and maladaptive musical engagement strategies, music preferences, and music skills. 1329 participants were included for analysis. All nine symptoms (r =.16, to.30) and the sum score of depression (r =.39), as well as trait negative affect (r =.36) were correlated with maladaptive music engagement. Six of the symptoms of depression were significant predictors of maladaptive music engagement. Among those, suicidal ideation, worthlessness, and fatigue were the most important. Maladaptive music engagement increased the odds of experiencing all the depression symptoms (OR = 1.04 to 1.14). Trait positive affect (r =.29) and having music as a hobby (r =.22) correlated with adaptive music engagement. Musicians who had been playing an instrument for six years and above had lower levels of maladaptive music engagement (d =.84). Furthermore, the results show that depression symptoms might have a bidirectional relationship with maladaptive music engagement, with suicidal thoughts being the most important symptom. The current study also validated the Healthy-Unhealthy Music Scale (HUMS; Saarikallio et al., 2015) in India and provides a cut-off score based on the sensitivity (.86) and specificity (.66) in identifying people at risk for depression. Overall, the results reveal that socio-demographic factors (age, gender, relationship status, occupation status, geographical location), psychological factors (trait affect, depressive symptoms), and music skills play an important role in engaging with music.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMusic and Science
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I’m thankful to the participants who enrolled in the study. I’m grateful for the support of my family, friends and the people who helped me at every stage of this study. I wouldn’t have executed this study without them. I am indebted to the co-authors and anonymous reviewers of this paper. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • depression
  • indian
  • maladaptive
  • music skills
  • symptoms
  • trait affect


Dive into the research topics of 'Depression Symptoms Relationship With Music Use: Investigating the Role of Trait Affect, Musical Ability, Music Preferences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this