How Music Can Reduce Stress in College Students

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Updated: Jun 19, 2023
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Category:Mental Health
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Our study questions whether the type of music listened to and the content of videos watched by college students affect their stress levels in a significant way. We chose to focus on college students because they are generally a stressed group of individuals. In order to find an answer to our question, we used a 2×2 experimental design and had college students watch 33-second videos of either sand being cut or puppies playing and had music playing in the background that was either classical or rap.

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After watching and listening to the clip, they took a standardized stress test that was five questions and then some demographic questions to get their age, ethnicity, and gender. After running SPSS, we found that there was no main effect such that the content of the videos and the genre of music did not affect the stress levels of college students. There was also no significant interaction between the two independent variables, video content, and music genre. If we could run this experiment differently, we would broaden the age range of participants and possibly conduct the experiment in a lab setting where we could actually bring in puppies and live music. Another option would be to administer a stress test pretest before showing the videos and then do a posttest to see if their answers changed.

Our hypothesis was that participants who watched the puppy video with the classical music playing would have lower stress levels than those who watched the puppy video with rap and the sand video with either music genre. One of the studies that led us to choose to conduct this study was one that showed that videos, especially ones that are funny or have meaning, do, in fact, reduce stress in the workplace Janicke, Rieger, Reinecke, and Connor (2017). A second study that led us to conduct the experiment was one that proved that relaxing and slower music was more effective at reducing stress and anxiety than upbeat music, such as rap, by Ditzen, B., Doerr, J. M., Linnemann, A., Nater, U. M., and Strahler, J. (2015).
We chose these hypotheses as they reflected what we personally would predict to happen. All of us are really connected to animals, especially to dogs, since all of us have at least one at home, and so we wondered how pet therapy and, more specifically, puppies would affect other peoples’ levels of stress. As a second “modern” way to cope with stress, we decided to use satisfying videos that are becoming more and more famous on social media and that appear to be very appealing and successful. People are always on social media at all times, but in particular during their “downtime,” so it would be interesting to see if these videos that they are watching actually do release some stress. Moreover, we decided to explore music as a stress reliever, too, as we are aware that many people from our age group, including us, listen to music very frequently during our daily life. We chose to hypothesize that puppies and classical music will have a more efficient outcome as a stress reliever than rap music, especially with satisfying videos, because we believe that puppies are going to evoke more positive emotions than satisfying videos and that classical music will be more relaxing than rap, in both levels of the first IV.

The first study that led us to pick videos rather than pictures was “Watching Online Videos at Work: the role of positive and meaningful affect for the recovery experiences and well-being at the workplace” (Janicke, S., Rieger, D., Reinecke, L., & Connor, W. 2017) This study showed that videos, especially when funny and meaningful actually do release stress in a workplace, and so in order to make our experiment more effective it seemed that videos would elicit a higher change in stress then pictures. Lastly, we hypothesized that classical music would be a better stress reliever than rap, according to the study done by de la Torre-Luque, A., Caparros-Gonzalez, R. A., Bastard, T., Vico, F. J., & Buela-Casal, G. (2017) on “Acute stress recovery through listening to Melomics relaxing music: A randomized controlled trial” music that was more relaxing and had a slower tempo and low pitch is more appropriate at reducing stress and anxiety.

College students have high-stress levels in general because of all the stress they are put under with classes, extracurriculars, internships, and also homesickness and adapting to a new environment. Researchers have been trying to find ways to decrease the stress that college students have to deal with. Recent studies have found that the presence of animals on campus has had great effects on stress levels. Research shows that the presence of animals causes changes in psychological and physiological states in the body, which include increased positive affect, lowered anxiety and depression, fewer feelings of loneliness, reduction of stress, and a decrease in blood pressure (Aydin, Fischer, Fischer, Frey, Hahn, Kastenmuller, & Krueger, 2012). The previous research we found basically explains that people are happier and healthier when animals are present.

Since we could not bring dogs on campus to conduct our study, we wanted to see if videos of puppies would have a similar effect. The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey (Reetz, Krylowicz, Bershad, Lawrence, & Mistler, 2016) lists students’ top presenting concerns as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and alcohol abuse. An average of 26.1% of students seeking services report taking psychotropic medications (Reetz et al., 2016). When entering college, many students think that the workload that comes along with taking college courses will be the most stressful part of their adjustment and transition to the college world. However, few students consider that they will likely experience feelings of loneliness and separation that they from being away from home.

Sampling Procedure

This study used a 2×2 factorial design to investigate the effect different music genres, puppies, and satisfying videos have on the stress levels of college students. The two Independent variables were music genres and type of video. The two levels of music genres were rap and classical music, and the two levels of video type were puppy videos and satisfying videos (magic-sand being cut).

The dependent variable was the stress levels of the participants. The study was a between-subject design, so the participants were only exposed to one of the four conditions. After being exposed to one of the conditions, the participants were then asked to fill out a brief stress test and some demographic questions.

The participants were college students primarily from Chapman University, but there were also students from other universities. We have 110 participants, with 90% being female and 10% being male. The age of the participants ranges from 18-21, and the majority of the participants are white. However, there is also a significant proportion of Asian participants. Although we have 110 participants, not all participants have completed the survey properly, so we expect to have at least another 40, bringing the total to 150. This will hopefully allow us to have more diversity in participants, especially when it comes to gender and ethnicity. Although Chapman does have a predominantly white and female student body having more participants complete our survey should bring in some more male and ethnically diverse participants.

Quantitative Measures

The variables we manipulated were music, and we did this by adding to the videos either classical or rap music in the background and stress-releasing videos, and we did it by either showing puppy videos or satisfying videos.

The four conditions were: classical music with puppies, rap music with puppies, classical music with a satisfying video, and rap music with a satisfying video. In the first condition, we showed a 33-second clip of a group of golden retriever puppies playing with Ludwig Van Beethoven – Per Elisa playing in the background. In the second condition, we showed the same 33-second clip of golden retriever puppies playing, but this time with Mockingbird by Eminem playing in the background. In the third condition, we showed a 33-second clip of purple magic sand being sliced up with a knife slowly with Ludwig Van Beethoven – Per Elisa playing in the background. Lastly, in the fourth clip, we showed the same 33-second clip of purple magic sand being sliced up with a knife slowly, but this time with Mockingbird by Eminem playing in the background. The same 33-second part of Mockingbird and Per Elisa was played in the two video clips.


We measured stress levels using an adapted version of the perceived stress test scale by Cohen, Kamarck, and Mermelstein (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein,1983). We adapted it by using only 4 questions, and instead of asking how they felt over a span of a month, we shortened it to during the test. For example, instead of asking, “In the last month, how often have you felt that things are going your way?” we asked, “During the test, how often have you felt that things were going your way?”. We did this as we wanted to know if the videos were the reason for their stress levels and not some other third variable. We also changed the scoring so that instead of it going from 0 – 4 (never to very often), it went from 1-4 (never to very often). We decided to use the perceived stress test scale -4, as we knew it had validity and reliability. At the end of our survey, we asked three demographic questions: the age of the participants, the gender of the participants, and the ethnicity of the participants.


a. Gender
i. Male: N = 20 (21.7%)
ii. Female: N = 72 (78.3%)
b. Race/Ethnicity
i. African American: N = 5 (5.4%)
ii. Asian: N = 15 (16.3%)
iii. Hispanic: N = 0
iv. Native American: N = 0
v. Pacific Islander: N = 0
vi. White/Caucasian: N = 57 (37.5%)
vii. Multiracial: N = 0
viii. Other: N = 15 (16.3%)
c. Age
i. Mean = 20.07
ii. SD = 1.463
d. IV
i. N in Condition 1 (puppies and classical music) = 27
ii. N in Condition 2 (sand and classical music) = 20
iii. N in Condition 3 (rap and puppies) = 20
iv. N in Condition 4 (rap and sand) = 25
v. Total N =92
e. DV
i. Mean = 2.564
ii. SD = .072
f. Main Effect of IV1: video content
i. F-value: F = 1.009
ii. p-value: p = .318
iii. Brief interpretation — There is no main effect (p0.05) of video content on stress level such that the F-value is smaller than 4; therefore, there is no significant difference between puppies and sand.
g. Main Effect of IV2: Music
i. F-value: F = .014
ii. p-value: p = .906
iii. Brief interpretation — There is no main effect of music type on stress level (p0.05) such that the F-value is smaller than 4; therefore, there is no significant difference between classical and rap.
h. Interaction between IV1 and IV2:
i. F-value: F = .078
ii. p-value: p = .781
iii. Brief interpretation: There is no interaction between video content and music on stress level (p0.05 and F i. Support or not support the hypothesis?

Our results do not support our hypothesis: we did not find any main effects nor an interaction between our IVs (video content and music type) and our DV (stress level). This means that the type of video content or music that the participants are given has no effect on reducing their stress levels. Therefore, our original hypothesis is not supported by our study’s results.


We decided to conduct this study because we think that examining different types of stress relievers is necessary to improve the stress levels of college students. Our group chose to see if certain types of video content and music would be helpful in finding these innovative ways for college students to release stress. Since the videos we chose have been proven to lower stress, we assumed that when paired with classical music instead of rap, college students would experience a significant decrease in their levels of stress. We hypothesized that the video of the Golden Retriever puppies, when paired with classical music, would be more successful than the sand video paired with any music and the video of the puppies with rap playing in the background. We hypothesized this because of past psychological research. In the end, our hypothesis was not supported by the results of our experiment. We instead found that our results showed that stress levels are not affected by video content and music genre.

A study that was done by Torre-Luque et al. (2017) initially led us to believe that classical music would be more effective at reducing levels of stress than rap music would be. This article states that music that is more relaxing and has a slower tempo would be more appropriate than rap music for reducing stress. This is another issue we ran into with our research as we chose a song that had a different pitch than more common rap music. In order to fix this issue, we could have picked a more aggressive rap song that contained a faster tempo and higher pitch than the song we did choose.

We were unable to control the effects of the third variable because we could not control what setting participants took the survey in. This is an important improvement that could be made as we do not know if some participants were dealing with more stressful settings while doing the survey, which could have affected their answers. In order to reach college students, our group distributed it around midterm season via social media: Facebook pages affiliated with Chapman and text messages. We chose to distribute this survey over the midterm season because we assumed that the stress levels of participants would be higher than usual because they would be stressed with studying.

An example of how the setting that someone took the survey in could affect their levels of stress is if the participant completed the survey in an environment where people are arguing, they would be subject to higher stress levels than those who are in a quiet setting. We believe that this issue could have been eliminated by inducing a stressful manipulation at the start of the survey, such as showing a video of a bad car crash before the videos of the puppies or sand. We also regret not including a pretest that would collect the general level of stress of the person taking the survey before even beginning the actual survey because it would have given us better control over third variables. A third way to control the setting that we could come up with was to complete the study in a lab in order to use staged manipulation instead of straightforward. If conducted in a lab, we could have brought in puppies for participants to play with and sand for those who find the videos so relaxing that they want to try them themselves.

As for the demographics of our study, our survey participants were mainly white females, which is a very select group of individuals that does not offer much diversity. Due to this lack of diversity, the external validity of our study did not turn out to be very strong. In order to counteract this lack of external validity, our study could be replicated later using a conceptual replication design. In order to broaden the number of participants we received, we could also send the survey out to students at other schools, which would help us see if there is an actual correlation.


In the end, we feel that our study, although lacking significant results, could be used to elaborate on future studies. We hope this study will help in finding new ways to reduce stress levels because it is a very serious and important issue that needs more healthy alternatives for reducing stress. Since stress can cause serious problems for some, it is so important to continuously examine and look for new methods of relieving stress and improving mental states.


  1. Aydin, N., Fischer, J., P., Frey, D., Hahn, D., Kastenmüller, A., Krueger, J. I. (2012). “Man’s best friend:” How the presence of a dog reduces mental distress after social exclusion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 446-449.
  2. Backels, K., House, L. A., Neal, C. (2018). A Doggone Way to Reduce Stress: An Animal Assisted Intervention with College Students. College Student Journal, 52(2), 199–204. Retrieved from,uid&db=s3h&AN=130164999&site=eds-live
  3. Bastard, T., Buela-Casal, G., Caparros-Gonzalez, R. A., de la Torre-Luque, A., Vico, F. J. (2017). Acute stress recovery through listening to metallomics relaxing music: A randomized controlled trial. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 26(2), 124–141.
  4. Bershad, Krylowicz, Lawrence, Mistler, Reetz, (2016). Social Media as an Avenue to Achieving Sense of Belonging Among College Students. American Counseling Association.
  5. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385-396.
  6. Connor, W., III, Janicke, S., Reinecke, L., Rieger, D. (2017). Watching Online Videos At Work: The Role of Positive and Meaningful Affect for Recovery Experiences and Well-Being at the Workplace. Retrieved from,uid&db=ir00622a&AN=cudc.comm.articles.1050&site=eds-live
  7. Ditzen, B., Doerr, J. M., Linnemann, A., Nater, U. M., Strahler, J. (2015). Music listening is a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 60, 82–90.
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How Music Can Reduce Stress in College Students. (2023, Jun 18). Retrieved from