1980s Metal-Heads Now Well-Adjusted Adults, Heavy Metal Didn't Destroy Their Future

By Steve Nagel on Aug 31, 2015 04:41 PM EDT

Among the many stereotypes linking certain styles of music with their target audiences was the notion that metal-heads of 1980s were a rebellious youth headed for a troubled, drug-addled future.  Now, a recently published study on the present status of this demographic has proven to be a pride-swallowing revelation for those who created the stereotypes.  The study concluded that middle-aged individuals who had grown up on heavy metal music had overwhelmingly turned out to be well-balanced adults with families and respectable incomes.  Fond memories of their youth combined with few regrets seemed to have led to a fulfilled, head-banging lifestyle. 

Although the results may be validating to veteran metal-heads, several parallel conclusions may skew the way we interpret these results.  On one hand, we can infer that the catharsis of head-banging and loud sounds may have proven oddly therapeutic.  Meanwhile, researchers had drawn the conclusion that "social support is a crucial protective factor for troubled youth. Fans and musicians alike felt a kinship in the metal community, and a way to experience heightened emotions with like-minded people." Unfortunately, this conclusion wouldn't seem to say anything specific about the metal community, as social support and kinship can be found in all areas of interest. 

Another point of interest is that the study was conducted opposite a control group of peers who preferred other musical genres in the 80s, and a control group of current college students.  In each case, the 1980s metal fans were considered "significantly happier."  Composer Kenneth Woods chose to interpret this as evidence of a watered-down evolution of metal in recent years---that listeners in the 80s simply had access to more substantial and complex forms.  Of course, this conclusion would require a deeper study into specific preferences of the present-day control group.

The study, called "Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Midlife Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians, and Fans," delves deep into various facets of the subjects' lives, covering adverse childhood experiences, demographics and personality.  Despite flexible interpretations of the findings, at the very least the study represents a major blow to the negative media perception surrounding metal music of the time, and challenges the way we perceive these demographics today.  

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TagsMetal, music therapy, Metal Fans, 1980s, Kenneth Woods, heavy metal

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