Depression references in America’s most popular rap songs are on the rise, according to a new study of rap lyrics that found that .
The study’s authors looked at the lyrics of the top 25 rap songs released in the Years 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. The researchers got their data on song rankings, sales, airplay, and popularity from companies like Billboard and Nielsen. Artists whose writing was analyzed in the study included Geto Boys, Eminem, Post Malone, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Juice Wrld, Kanye West and Jay-Z.
The study was conducted by researchers at University of North performed Karolina on Chapel Hill. Their research appears today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Anxiety and depression references increase
Researchers analyzed the texts for anxiety references (example text: “What’s taking so long? I’m getting ‘anxious…”), Evidence of depression (“Went through a deep depression when my mom died…”) and evidence of suicide (“Suicide if you ever try to let go…”). They used definitions from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) and the Mayo Clinic’s Descriptions of Anxiety and Depression.
Overall, about a third of these 125 songs were related to anxiety. Likewise, about 22% related to depression and 6% to suicide.
Notably, in 2018 these percentages were more than double what they were in 1998.
More specifically, they found that metaphors on general mental health increased from 8% to 44% over these two decades. Evidence of suicide increased from 0% to 12% and evidence of depression increased from 16% to 32%.
In 1998, only 32% of the top 25 most popular rap songs were related to mental health, but by 2018 that proportion had risen to 68%.
Rap about depression equates to mental health of the Nation’s Crisis
The rise of rap songs about depression and anxiety has gone hand-in-hand with what some are calling the “mental health crisis” in the United States.
For example, recent studies have found that psychological stress and suicide risk increased significantly from 2008 to 2017, particularly among 18 to 25 year olds. Likewise, the prevalence of “major depressive episodes” among US adolescents increased significantly from 2005 to 2014. Anxiety currently affects around 30% of adolescents, while 80% of those affected never seek treatment. In 2017, the suicide rate among 15-24 year olds in the US reached its highest level since 1960. And from 2007 to 2017, the suicide rate among people aged 10-24 increased by 56%.
An impressionable audience
This realization about the rise of rap songs about mental health issues is immensely important. Rap music is especially popular among young people. US youth today spend nearly 40 hours a week listening to music, a number that is increasing rapidly.
And as the study reports, “rap artists serve as role models for their audiences,” audiences that span all socioeconomic classes and ethnicities. As such, rap artists “influence the development of these young people’s identities”.
Of course, as the authors state, “we cannot address causes or motivations for the increased presence of mental health evidence in the samples songs.”
More research is needed on rap and mental illness, they write, to help researchers understand “how this music can improve the mental health of its listeners or how it can put them at greater risk
Concluding, the authors write, “This study supports the need for research examining the effects of rap music to reduce stigma and minimize mental health risks.”
Study : “A Content Analysis of Mental Health Discourse in Popular Rap Music”Authors: Alex Kresovich, Meredith K. Reffner Collins, Daniel Riffe and Francesca R .Dillman Carpen tierPublished in : JAMA PediatricsPublished date: 7. December 2020DOI:doi:10.1001/jamap paediatrics.2020.5155Photo: by Armando Orozco from Pixabay
The 28 Best Rap Songs About Depression
- A Tribe Called Quest, Faith Evans