Study: Aging '80s Metal Fans Doing Better Than Everyone

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Well-adjusted middle-aged-people-to-be rock out with Estonian heavy metal group Metsatöll. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Hey guys, remember the '80s? The big hair, the leather vests, the wild, drug-fueled orgies on the Slayer tour bus after the show? Or that time you listened to so much Mötley Crüe you got addicted to heroin, joined a sex cult and killed your sister's parakeet in ritual sacrifice?

The causal relationship in that last sentence might seem tenuous, but if you were a teenager during the Reagan administration, that kind of rhetoric was far from a punchline -- it was on the Senate floor, as Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center attempted to prove that music with lyrics about sex, drugs and violence actually compelled teenagers to partake in those activities themselves.

Now, some 20 years after Dee Snider took the stand before members of Congress to argue that Twisted Sister's lyrics were not, in fact, leading teens down a path toward Satan, science has finally backed him up.

According to a new study published by the International Society for Self and Identity, adults who identified as metal fans during their adolescence reported being "significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently" than their non-metalhead counterparts.


The study, which was led by a psychology professor at Humboldt State University (because of course it was), surveyed the experiences of 377 adult participants who self-identified as former teenage "heavy metal groupies, musicians, and fans." The findings?

Results revealed that metal enthusiasts did often experience traumatic and risky “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” lives. However, the “metalhead” identity also served as a protective factor against negative outcomes. They were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups. Thus, participation in fringe style cultures may enhance identity development in troubled youth.

In other words: When you're a teenager and everything kind of sucks (redundant), it's good to have people around who understand you, enjoy similar interests and function as a community. The feeling of belonging to something is good for you, whether it's the Future Farmers of America or a sweaty mass of people wearing leather pants and screaming about the jackal that holds the soul of the Antichrist crying bloody tears of death into an abyss or whatever. Either can help define your sense of self at a time when it seems like there's no one else like you; neither is an early indicator of a life of despondency and crime.

On the other hand: Jury's still out on One Direction fans. Maybe check back in 20 years?