No music, no life?

How music influences personal wellbeing across social groups
Band playing music

Listening to music has proven to be beneficial for people’s wellbeing. Yet, one person’s soothing tune can fuel another person’s loathing. For example, think about the major differences between sappy pop music and ripping black metal, or between gabber music and tearjerkers – all of them are genres that count as many fans as haters. We know that social background has a major influence on a person’s music taste, but we still barely understand how these different music genres affect people’s wellbeing in various ways, especially based on important group characteristics such as class, gender and ethnicity. Cultural sociologist Julian Schaap has been awarded with a NWO Veni grant worth €280.000 to research this issue.

The need for this research is high. Over the past decade, the wellbeing of particularly young adults has decreased rapidly, partially due to sweeping lockdowns. The alarm bells are being rung more and more frequently by the health care sector, warning that solutions for the deterioration of personal wellbeing should be sought in people’s social and cultural environment. During those lockdowns, music turned out to be an important source of online social interaction, but also of big offline shortcoming: no clubs, no concerts, no festivals. Especially for young adults, music is oftentimes an important way to express, to amuse or to identify oneself. Therefore, it is important to research what music can and cannot do to improve the wellbeing of young adults.

In this research project, dr. Julian Schaap tries to identify the various effects of music on personal wellbeing. In doing so, he will be adding a sociological perspective to psychological and medical studies that show the big influence music can have in fostering mental and physical wellbeing. Specifically, he tries to reveal how and why these effects vary across social groups – which until now has remained understudied. Finally, he aims to unravel the magnitude of the relation between music, subjective wellbeing and social groups on a societal level, to come to a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of the role of music in society.

Julian Schaap: “The lockdowns demonstrated that music can be a huge social conductor, in the shortage of concerts, festivals and the night life, but also in the role it plays in our increased online interactions.

This grant allows me to research what the role of music can be in improving the wellbeing of young adults and how various music genres and group differences play a role here. The results can, among other things, bridge the gaps between various disciplines that indicate the benefits of music for healthcare.

NWO Veni

Veni is a financing tool from the talent programme of the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The talent programme gives recently promoted researchers a chance to further develop their ideas over the course of three years.


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