A new research report shows that music is essential in young people’s lives, significantly improving their wellbeing. 85% of young people said music made them feel happy. Large numbers also said it made them feel cool (41%) and excited (39%). When asked how they would feel if they had to go without music for even one day, overwhelmingly they said they would be sad.

The Sound of the Next Generation is a new research report published by Youth Music, a national charity investing in music-making projects that help children and young people develop personally and socially as well as musically. The charity works particularly with those who don’t get to make music because of who they are, where they live, or what they’re going through.

Youth Music worked with Ipsos MORI to conduct online surveys with a representative sample of 1,001 young people aged 7 to 17 across England, as well as in-depth interviews with participants involved in Youth Music projects.

This youth-focused research offers ground-breaking insights into the diverse ways young people engage with and value music and music-making, bringing to light the positive and meaningful impact music has for them.

“[Without music] I’d probably be a lot more stressed out, I wouldn’t be a nice person to be around, cause it’s like the way I relieve stress and chill out when the music’s on you know you can just relax.”
– 
Hannah, 19, Bodmin.

The research found that music is young people’s favourite pastime, equal to gaming and ahead of sport, drama, dancing, and arts & crafts. Well aware of how music affects their emotions, young people are drawing on it as a tool to support their wellbeing. They carefully curate the soundtracks to their lives. Just like a musical score for a film, young people are using music to convey and reflect their feelings, to change their emotional state, and to regulate their mood.

“When I make music, when I play music, I can be myself… You don’t have to worry about what anybody else thinks, it’s about you, you can make yourself happy, and be how you want to be.” 
– Finlay, 15, Manchester.

Furthermore, the research suggests that the creative process of making music has a deeper and more profound impact than listening to it. Young people interviewed said they see music-making as a vital part of their lives – something which makes them feel worthwhile and helps explore their emotions.

“I was in a terrible place, really depressed. I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I was back then. I used music as a tool to express myself, to talk without having to say anything to anyone.” 
– Chi, 21, Oxford.

At a time when young people are more likely than any other generation to feel lonely, those who made music in the last week said they were less likely to say that they ‘often feel lonely’. One of the reasons why music helps combat loneliness is because it’s often undertaken as a group activity, and is a way of making new friends. And making music in groups has wider social value by providing opportunities to communicate and connect with other people, creating a sense of belonging.

Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music said: 

“Young people are using music as a resource to draw on, a coping mechanism to support their personal wellbeing. They’re doing this creatively, strategically and – often – independently. There’s an opportunity therefore for schools, charities and the music industry to support young people to use music in this way. To re-imagine the purpose of music and music education for social and wellbeing outcomes. And in doing so, make it more inclusive and impactful.”

The research also found:

  • 64% of young people think they are musical, up from 48% in 2006.
  • 97% of young people had listened to music in the last week.
  • Ed Sheeran, Little Mix and Stormzy were named as young people’s favourite acts, yet overall the 1,001 respondents named 633 different artists spanning more than 300 different genres.
  • 67% of young people make music.
  • 30% of young people play an instrument – of which 25% said that they are teaching themselves and 23% have been taught by a friend or family member.
  • 71% of 7-10-year-old girls regularly sing.
  • 19% of 16-17-year-old young men make music on a computer.