Musical identities and health over the youth-adult transition

Lonie, Douglas Iain (2009) Musical identities and health over the youth-adult transition. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2009LoniePhD.pdf] PDF
Download (1MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis concerns musical identities and how they affect health as young people make the transition to adulthood. The primary focus is on music listening, since this is widely reported to be a key feature of adolescents’ and young adults’ leisure time (Roe 1999; Tarrant, et al 2000). Previous studies have investigated the links between specific musical genres and problematic behaviour (Klein 1993), suicidal risk (Lacourse 2001), and emotional turmoil (Roberts 1998), however there is a lack of both longitudinal and qualitative evidence in support of these findings. A number of assumptions are made regarding ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ musical preferences although causal links between music and health are still not clear. Similarly, the extent to which musical behaviour is related to other demographic features (e.g. sex, social class, education) and whether this changes over the lifecourse have yet to be fully investigated.

The principal aim of the thesis is therefore to identify how musical identities relate to health and wellbeing over the youth-adult transition. In order to meet this aim a number of objectives have been devised, these are; to trace the development of musical identities and investigate the structure of music preference; to highlight associations between musical identity and risky health behaviours; to study the relationship between musical identities and emotional wellbeing; and to address the significance of musical identities in transitions to adulthood.

A dialectical methodology was adopted which synthesises quantitative and qualitative methods. The former involved statistical analysis of a large-scale longitudinal dataset (The West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study). The latter was a qualitative sub-study with 18 participants from the Twenty-07 Study, designed and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Combining methods in this way allowed for philosophical pluralism in the methodological design, as well as for different aspects of the research aims to be addressed.

Musical preferences were found to change over the youth-adult transition for most people, and this affected the links between musical identity and health. The overriding distinction was between participants who perceived a strong musical self-identity, and those who claimed a more limited identity. This was evidenced in both quantitative and qualitative findings. The former group were more likely to engage in risky health behaviours, but also indicated a more sophisticated use of music for therapeutic purposes. The latter group were less likely to engage in risky health behaviours, but did not tend to use music as a well-being resource like their strong-identifying peers. Strong musical identities are associated with higher levels of risky health behaviours, but this is also largely limited to a specific period of youth. Many practices associated with maintaining a strong musical identity in youth are limited by the onset of adult responsibilities, and structural identities. The emotional benefits associated with a strong musical identity, however, remain alongside adult identities. Ultimately, the associations between music listening and health are mostly influenced by strength of identity, and the current academic literature highlighting ‘problematic’ genres should be considered with this in mind.

The implication of this work is that common sense assumptions about the corrosive nature of certain musical identities and youth cultures should be tempered by an acknowledgement that music tastes, associations, and identities are subject to change, often over very short periods of time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Music, Health, Youth-Adult Transition, Youth Subcultures, Substance Use
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: West, Professor Patrick and Wilson, Dr. Graeme
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Mr Douglas I Lonie
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1125
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:34

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year