Heavy metal was the No. 1-selling music genre in 1989, and parents feared the worst: that Satan worship, drug use, loads of sex, and suicide went along with it, write researchers in the journal Self and Identity. Records were burned, "Parental Advisory" warning labels were born, and some '90s research suggested that teens who were into metal had a boatload of problems. And then decades passed. How did those metalheads turn out? Pretty OK, found the team led by Humboldt State University psychologist Tasha Howe, reports Billboard. It found that while middle-aged metalheads were more likely to have engaged in risky behavior as youths, they in no way differ from both non-metal-loving peers and college students in terms of "life satisfaction and current functioning."
To get to that conclusion, researchers surveyed 377 adults, both metal-lovers (groupies, musicians, and fans), peers who preferred different music, and California college students. It turns out the metal groups' recollections of their youth were "significantly happier" than the comparison groups', and they had fewer regrets (about a third did, compared to 44.9% of students and 51.3% of non-metal peers). As for why they possibly turned out like they did, the researchers point to a "kinship in the metal community ... a way to experience heightened emotions and intense connections with like-minded people, which seemed to contribute to their eventual positive identity development." This suggests, they write, that "fringe style cultures can ... serve a protective function" for youth. The authors do note, however, that "this was a community sample of relatively high functioning individuals who volunteered to participate," which may have skewed the results. (Another study found excessive headbanging could kill.)