Musical key to unlocking teenage wasteland DOCTORS should ask their teenage patients what type of music they prefer to determine if they are at risk of developing a mental illness or committing suicide, researchers say. A study, published in today's Australasian Psychiatry journal, found that teens who listened to pop music were more likely to be struggling with their sexuality, those tuning in to rap or heavy metal could be having unprotected sex and drink-driving, and those who favoured jazz were usually misfits and loners. The findings prompted a call for doctors to include musical tastes as a diagnostic indicator in mental health assessments. The study's author, Felicity Baker, said yesterday: "There is no evidence to suggest the type of music you listen to will cause you to commit suicide, but those who are vulnerable and at risk of committing suicide may be listening to certain types of music." She said an Australian study of year 10 students had shown significant associations between heavy metal music and suicidal tendencies, depression, delinquency and drug-taking. An American study had also shown that young adults who regularly listened to heavy metal had a higher preoccupation with suicide and higher levels of depression than their peers. Deliberate self-harm and attempted suicide were also associated with teenagers who listened to trance, techno, heavy metal and medieval music as part of the Goth subculture, while those who attended dance parties were much more likely than their peers to be taking drugs. Some genres of rap music, such as French rap, were linked to more deviant behaviours, including theft, violence and drug use. Teens who listened to hip-hop were usually less troublesome, Dr Baker said. "But it's important to point out that music doesn't cause these behaviours," she said. "It's more a case of teenagers who may have a mental illness or are involved in these antisocial behaviours being drawn to certain types of music." Michael Bowden, a child psychiatrist and the head of medical programs at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, said most doctors already questioned teen patients about their influences, whether from their peers, the internet or music. "Over the years there have been concerns about suicidal themes in some music and whenever a famous person, such as (Nirvana singer) Kurt Cobain, kills themselves we see a copycat effect among teenagers," he said. "But sometimes an adolescent's musical tastes will reveal nothing. The key to understanding any teenager is to treat them with respect by listening to what they have to say, rather than typecasting them according to the type of music they listen to." WHAT STUDIES SAY ABOUT YOUR SOUNDS: POP: Conformists, overly responsible, role-conscious, struggling with sexuality or peer acceptance. HEAVY METAL: Higher levels of suicidal ideation, depression, drug use, self-harm, shoplifting, vandalism, unprotected sex. DANCE: Higher levels of drug use regardless of socio-economic background. JAZZ/RHYTHM & BLUES: Introverted misfits, loners. RAP: Higher levels of theft, violence, anger, street gang membership, drug use and misogyny.