If you’re happy and you know it (you’re probably not a musician)

If you’re happy and you know it (you’re probably not a musician)


norman lebrecht

August 06, 2016

Two scholars at Deakin University in Australia have published a survey that purports to show people are happier when they are listening to music.

There are two flaws to this proposition. First, the method: A stratified random sample of 1,000 participants was interviewed via telephone. Useless, as recent results have testified for predicting any political outcome.

Second, nobody asked the musicians.

Summary follows.

If you’re happy and you know it: Music engagement and subjective wellbeing

  1. Melissa K. Weinberg1
  2. Dawn Joseph2

  1. 1School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Australia

  2. 2School of Education, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Australia
  1. Melissa K. Weinberg, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood VIC 3125, Australia. Email:melissa.weinberg@deakin.edu.au


Experiencing and engaging with music have been fundamental to all societies across the ages. This study explores the connection between habitual music engagement and subjective wellbeing. Subjective wellbeing (SWB) comprises individual evaluations of life satisfaction, and is internationally regarded at policy and government levels. The present study uses data gathered in 2014 as part of the 31st survey of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index to provide insight into the relationship between music engagement and SWB. A stratified random sample of 1,000 participants was interviewed via telephone. The findings revealed that engaging with music by dancing or attending musical events was associated with higher SWB than for those who did not engage with music in these forms. The findings also emphasised the important role of engaging with music in the company of others with regard to SWB, highlighting an interpersonal feature of music. The study provides an overview of the general relationship between music and SWB at a population level, by contrast to most research in the area that has focused on evaluating clinical interventions involving music. The insight gained from these findings can be used to inform future interventions and to better understand how music is involved in emotional regulation.


  • Hugh Jarsse says:

    Publish or die…..the university faculties and the journals need loads of this type of pseudoscientific babble for their very survival: otherwise no grant money or subscription sales.

  • Scott Fields says:

    The reason that phone surveys have become ineffective in political pollings is because landlines skew toward an older population, which tends to be more conservative and more likely to vote.

    These biases shouldn’t be as important in a study of music effects.

  • Stanley Cohen says:

    Had they already published their findings on SWB and ice-cream?