Popular music lyrics are having a negative impact on the health of the elderly, a study has revealed.
Researchers believe that modern music poorly represents age and ageing, contributing to a lack of confidence and esteem of older people and poor outcomes in mental and physical health.
Most of the lyrics generated from a young person’s perspective involve their imaginings of old age, resulting in mainly negative representations of age and ageing.
The study, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, examined song lyrics from the 1930s to the present day.
To be included in the study, the lyrics had to be in English and had to specifically relate to the phenomenon of age or ageing.
Of the 76 songs that fitted this criteria 55, or 72 per cent, were “negative” and covered topics such as frailty, loneliness and death.
The 1980s was the decade with the highest proportion of “negative” songs.
Lead author Jacinta, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “With significant increases in life expectancy and a huge rise in the number of people aged 65 or older during the coming decades, ageing is a matter of national and global importance.
“However, most research focuses on age-related disease at the expense of examining the social and cultural influences on the ageing experience.
“The negative representations of age and ageing can be dispiriting, and can affect confidence and the esteem of older people.
“Negative emotions experienced by older people are connected to poor outcomes in mental and physical health, particularly cardiac health.
“As popular music is a powerful mass medium that has both positive and negative effects on peoples’ emotions, we thought it would be useful to investigate how age and ageing is portrayed.
“Unfortunately, from this study, we found mainly negative representations.
“While it may prove an impossible task, as well as an infringement on the freedom of expression, to censor negative portrayals of old age, it is important that awareness is raised and some efforts are made to reduce these negative stereotypes.”
Songs with a positive portrayal of ageing and older people:
Dusty Springfield – Goin’ Back
Bob Dylan – Forever Young
Sophie Tucker – Life begins at Forty
Jimmy Durante – Young at Heart
Songs with a negative portrayal of ageing and older people:
Green Day – The Grouch
Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Old
Mary Hopkins – Those Were The Days
The Beatles – When I’m Sixty-four
by Rachel McDermott
Image of Green Day courtesy of Daniel D’Auria at wikimedia.org