Mental health struggles have increased among adults and even in young people over the past years. A new study showed that many artists have actually included mental health metaphors into their lyrics, which could help shape conversations about this issue among young listeners who are at risk of experiencing mental health issues.

A study titled "A Content Analysis of Mental Health Discourse in Popular Rap Music" published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that the most popular rap songs in the United States have increased their reference to suicide and depression, including other struggles with mental health.

Alex Kresovich, lead study author and a doctoral student at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, said that rap artists are thought of as "cool" people on earth. He said that the fact they are discussing mental health and are infusing them into their songs will have a big impact on how young people would perceive mental health.

The study found that in two decades from 1998 to 2018, the proportion of rap songs that made references to mental health struggles has more than doubled. It is also the time that the genre has become the best selling genre of all, outpacing country music.

The researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said that the increase in mental health metaphors included in rap songs could shape conversations on the topic among young listeners. This could greatly impact those who are already at risk of experiencing mental health issues. Between the ages of 18 to 25, there has been a sharp increase in psychological stress. There has also been an increase in suicide rates among Black teens, who also comprise a larger portion of the audience of rap music.

The researchers looked into lyric sheets from the 25 hit rap songs in the U.S. in the years 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. Many of the artists were black men and almost one-third of the songs have made references to anxiety. Around 22 percent referenced depression while six percent gave reference to suicide.

Rap music and mental health. Photo: Pixabay

Among the songs that they analysed, they also found that the most common mental health stressors were environmental issues and love. Despite this identification, they could not determine whether the listeners receive the message as negative or something positive. The metaphors that are used by rap artists in their songs like "fighting my demons" or "pushed to the edge," could suggest anxiety without explicitly noting it.