Scientific study finds that 1980s metalheads thrive and "develop healthy adult lives"


A new study conducted by psychology researchers at American Universities have managed to determine that ‘metalheads’ have become happier and well-adjusted adults following their musical choices.

In the 1980s, when metal music began to grow in popularity, bands like Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe and more were being blasted out by millions of angsty teenagers who were rebelling against society.

Prominent lyrics like “I want to watch you bleed” or “we are ready to kill all comers” began to scare the shit out of parents who, looking at their children, starting suffering from the paranoia that their kids are being brainwashed by these guitar slaying metal monsters.

While criticism of the genre was steadily growing, so was the sales and commercial popularity. With no sign of metalheads disappearing, a prominent committee was formed in US which went by the name of the ‘Parents Music Resource Center’ [PMRC] who tried to put a stop to all this racket.

Apparently, the PMRC formed in 1985 with the stated goal of “increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labelling albums with Parental Advisory stickers.” 

The PMRC, who grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s, had a list which was labelled ‘The Filthy Fifteen’ and contained names of musicians and their songs which contained lyrical content of sex, drugs, masturbation, occult or violence. The fear, of course, was that parents believed their children would grow up to be violent adults after exposing themselves to such content.

Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider famously called out the PMRC during a performance in 1985, accusing them of misinterpreting his band’s lyrics and falsely labelling them as a band that could enforce negativity. Now, 34 years later, Snider could well have been proved right.

A new scientific study has “examined 1980s heavy metal groupies, musicians, and fans at middle age”, exploring the impact metal music has had on those who lived pafsionalty through it. The study found that ’80s metal kids lived riskier lives in their youths but emerged “significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups.”

The researchers, reflecting on their results, concluded that “participation in fringe style cultures may enhance identity development in troubled youth.”

The study, titled O Sex and Gender in the 1980s Heavy Metal Scene: Groupies, Musicians, and Fans Recall Their Experiences, explained: “Groupies, heavy metal musicians, and highly devoted fans (metalheads) were some of the most salient identity groups for teenagers and emerging adults in the 1980s—the tail end of the Baby Boom and the beginning of the newly emerging Generation X. Met with appalled reactions from conventional society, the heavy metal scene nevertheless appeared to help at least some disenchanted youth negotiate turbulent times.”

The study confirmed that fact that psychology researchers asked Metalheads to describe their childhood experiences which included maltreatment, sexual and substance use, identity issues, mental health and more.

Refelcting on all the data, the study found that “despite their trauma and risky behaviours” metalheads have been able to “thrive and develop healthy adult lives, from which they look back fondly on those 1980s experiences.”

Tasha Howe, a professor of psychology at Humboldt State University, stopped by KQED radio in San Francisco to discuss the findings.