Scientists say Eminem rapping about mental health may help reduce depression stigma

Scientists and researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed the lyrics of the twenty five top-performing rap and hip-hop records in the United States in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018.

Results revealed the proportion of rap songs that referenced mental health more than doubled over the 2 decades, with chart-topping artists like Eminem and Lil Wayne alluding to depression, anxiety and suicide.

The music’s release coincides with a rise in suicide among Black teenagers, who make up a “significant portion of rap music’s large and growing audience”, according to the scientists.

Although it is unclear how this music may influence a listener’s mental health, the scientists’ team hope mainstream records referencing emotional struggles may help reduce the stigma around issues like depression.

Out of the total 125 songs analyzed, 35 (28%) referenced anxiety, while 28 (22%) alluded to depression. 8 (6%) of the songs referenced suicide, while 26 (21%) used a mental health metaphor, like “fighting my demons” or “pushed to the edge.”

None of the most popular songs in 1998 mentioned suicide, compared to more than one in 10 (12%) in 2018, the year rap outsold country as the best-selling genre of music in the United States.

Over the study’s 20 years, depression references in rap music increased from 16% to 32%, while mental health metaphors rose from 8% to 44%.

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