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Listening to loud music linked with pot use, unsafe sex, study says

May 21, 2012|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
  • Teens and young adults who listen to digital music players with ear buds are almost twice as likely as non-listeners to smoke pot, a study in the journal Pediatrics says.
Teens and young adults who listen to digital music players with ear buds… (Ian Waldie / Getty Images )

Warning: Music may be hazardous to your health.

It’s not just your hearing that’s at risk, according to a study out Monday in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics. Teens and young adults who listen to digital music players with ear buds are almost twice as likely as non-listeners to smoke pot, the study says. And those who attend concerts or frequent dance clubs are nearly six times as likely as homebodies to go on a binge-drinking bender.

These findings are based on survey results collected from 944 low-income students at two vocational schools in the Netherlands. The students ranged in age from 15 to 25, with an average age of 18. The study authors, public health experts in Rotterdam, focused on these kids because risky health behaviors are more common in this cohort, they wrote.

Risky music-listening behavior was defined as listening to music at 89 dBA for at least an hour per day, based on a report from the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks. (dBA is short for decibel A-weighting, a measure of environmental noise.) That music exposure can cause noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL; people with this condition often have “increased feelings of isolation, depression, loneliness, anger, and fear,” according to the study.

But that’s not where the health risks end. The researchers found that compared with young adults who listened to music responsibly, those who put themselves at risk with digital music players were:

* 1.99 times more likely to say they had used cannabis in the last four weeks;

* 1.19 times more likely to smoke cigarettes daily; and

* 1.10 times more likely to have sex without using a condom every time.

In addition, compared with the students with safe music-listening practices, those who put themselves at risk by attending noisy concerts and clubs were:

* 5.94 times more likely to have consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a row at some point in the last four weeks;

* 2.03 times more likely to have sex without using a condom every time; and

* 1.12 times more likely to smoke cigarettes every day.

Interestingly, those who listened to too-loud live music were 43% less likely to report cannabis use in the last four weeks.

The researchers don’t say that loud music caused these students to graduate to other risky behaviors, only that there was a strong correlation between them. That could be useful for public health officials to know so they could design practical interventions, such as handing out condoms along with earplugs at concert venues, or by printing messages about alcohol abuse on concert ticket stubs, they suggested.

With regard to digital music players, the researchers noted that “music sounds better with cannabis use” and noted that manufacturers “should be encouraged to create a safer listening environments” by creating players that produce high-quality sound at lower dBA levels.

You can read the study online here.

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