Listening to music and physiological and psychological functioning: the mediating role of emotion regulation and stress reactivity

Psychol Health. 2012;27(2):227-41. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2011.575225. Epub 2011 Jul 8.


Music listening has been suggested to have short-term beneficial effects. The aim of this study was to investigate the association and potential mediating mechanisms between various aspects of habitual music-listening behaviour and physiological and psychological functioning. An internet-based survey was conducted in university students, measuring habitual music-listening behaviour, emotion regulation, stress reactivity, as well as physiological and psychological functioning. A total of 1230 individuals (mean = 24.89 ± 5.34 years, 55.3% women) completed the questionnaire. Quantitative aspects of habitual music-listening behaviour, i.e. average duration of music listening and subjective relevance of music, were not associated with physiological and psychological functioning. In contrast, qualitative aspects, i.e. reasons for listening (especially 'reducing loneliness and aggression', and 'arousing or intensifying specific emotions') were significantly related to physiological and psychological functioning (all p = 0.001). These direct effects were mediated by distress-augmenting emotion regulation and individual stress reactivity. The habitual music-listening behaviour appears to be a multifaceted behaviour that is further influenced by dispositions that are usually not related to music listening. Consequently, habitual music-listening behaviour is not obviously linked to physiological and psychological functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult