It's one of the most iconic anti-metal talking points, carried down through the years by pundits and parents alike: Heavy-metal fans are troubled, angry people. A study from the University of Australia, published in a recent issue of Journal of Community Psychology, suggests the contrary, however, as Noisey points out. Written by Australian psychologists Paula Rowe and Bernard Guerin, the study, titled "Contextualizing the Mental Health of Metal Youth: A Community for Social Protection, Identity, and Musical Empowerment," draws from researchers' repeated, informal interviews with 28 young, Australian metalheads (23 men and five women). Based on these discussions, the researchers found that the metal identities and community actually helped insulate them from — rather than cause — mental health problems.
In the abstract, Rowe and Guerin single out four common factors connecting the metalheads' mental health profile. They reported being bullied or marginalized through social relationships at school; they felt the music helped cope with feelings of anger and ostracization; they found community in the metal fandom, whether in-person, online, or just in their own heads; and said their metalhead identities allowed them to both keep their tormentors at bay, and forging connections with their fellow fans.
"By talking repeatedly, directly with young metalheads," the researchers conclude, "it was found that metal identities were helping participants to survive the stress of challenging environments and build strong and sustained identities and communities, thus alleviating any potential mental health issues."
Rowe and Guerin's study isn't exactly ironclad — the small sample pool, in particular, makes it hard to categorize as definitive – but hey, it's a good place to start, and basically states what we metalheads all know to be true in our hearts already. Find the whole study here.