Heavy Metal, Movement, and Community: Veterans in the Mosh Pit

The link between positive mental health and heavy metal is closer than popular culture may portray.  The sense of being part of a community, collective movement – such as ‘headbanging’ and ‘moshing’- and the music itself, have been shown to provide numerous mental health benefits. 

We live in a time when one out of four Australian adults feel lonely, and nearly 30% of Australian adults feel they rarely or never feel part of a community or group of friends. [1] Having a sense of belonging is becoming increasingly important for mental health.  A 2018 study showed that heavy metal identity helped metalheads endure stress and challenging environments and build strong, lasting relationships with other fans –helping alleviate potential mental health issues. [2] 

Soldier On reached out to veteran metalheads to hear what they had to say about metal, mental health, and community. Michael, a Navy veteran, felt that the heavy metal community are very warm and inviting.  “There’s a lot of passion in people when they go to a metal show – you’re there to see the musicians perform their art, and to enjoy yourself.  My experience has been it can be pretty easy to strike up a conversation and meet people at shows,” Michael said. Roark, a currently serving Navy officer had this to say, “I absolutely feel an immediate connection with someone at a party or gathering if they are [into metal].  I know we’ll have something to talk about and have similar life experiences.” 

The acts of headbanging, moshing, and other physical movements while at metal concerts, have also shown to support positive mental health.  A 2016 study showed participation in a mosh pit or engaging in headbanging can provide an avenue where negative emotions can be discharged within an environment where aggression is contained and organized.  The study went on to note how the ritualized nature of headbanging and moshing provides a cathartic effect for fans and reduces feelings of shame and isolation. [3]

According to Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Joy of Movement”, the brain responds to music by releasing adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins which energize the body and alleviate pain. Participating in live music and engaging in the group movements, such as the mosh pit, helps foster a sense of belonging and further facilitates the release of endorphins. [4]

Heavy metal’s mental health benefits were demonstrated in a 2015 University of Queensland study.  The study of 39 adults between the ages of 18 and 34 revealed the participants felt heavy metal was helpful in regulating feelings of sadness while enhancing positive emotions.  The study also showed the participants’ levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after listening to heavy metal or extreme music.[5] 

Neurologist Oliver Sacks said, “music is part of being human” and the heavy metal community is full of fans waiting to welcome you into the pit. 

[1] (2018, November 11). AUSTRALIAN LONELINESS REPORT. Retrieved from https://psychweek.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Psychology-Week-2018-Australian-Loneliness-Report-1.pdf

[2] Cansdale, D. (2018, February 19). How heavy metal and head banging can help soothe your soul. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-19/heavy-metal-helps-soothe-the-soul/9450576

[3] Baker, C., Brown, B. Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis. J Med Humanit 37, 1–17 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-014-9274-8

[4] MCGONIGAL, K. (2021). JOY OF MOVEMENT: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage. S.l.: AVERY PUB GROUP.

[5] Watson, M. (2015, June 25). Heavy metal combats depression, anger: Study. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from