We’re all familiar with the positive benefits of music for our mental health, but are the perceived effects scientifically proven? To answer that, we will be exploring a 2020 scientific study that has synthesized the research in the field from over 20 sources.
Research shows that individuals experience mental health benefits from music through recreational and therapeutic use. A 2013 study showed that neurochemical changes in the brain associated with listening to music can regulate one’s emotions, increase motivation, and increase pleasure¹. Relaxing music in particular is shown to regulate levels of mental stimulation while also reducing stress².
Community music programs where participants create music together such as drum circles, orchestra, band, or choir can also positively impact one’s mental health. These settings foster social interaction, which is shown to improve psychological well-being and reduce stress levels³⁻⁵. The mental health benefits of music to mental health is so strong that music therapy is often used to support individuals with mental illness by reducing anxiety and improving quality of life⁶. One area where music therapy is used is in long-term care homes, as the elderly are often exposed to risk factors for depression such as isolation, grief, and declining health, with over 20% of adults aged 60+ suffer from mental illness or a neurological disorder⁷. As a result, during the COVID-19 pandemic, AMP4Life has implemented tele-health music therapy, allowing for accessible music therapy by providing individualized playlists for long-term care residents and staff in the hopes of using the power of music to support them during the pandemic⁸. The most surprising aspect of this treatment is that regardless of one’s individual music preferences, the positive mental health benefits of music are shown across the board.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased social awareness and attention placed on mental health and individual wellbeing. While traditional forms of therapy may be inaccessible for many, the scientific literature has shown that music therapy can also offer mental health benefits in an accessible, personalized manner. As restrictions ease and outdoor gatherings start to open, consider joining a local choir or drum circle to experience the benefits of music for mental health!
1. Chanda, M., & Levitin, D. (2013). The neurochemistry of music. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 179-193. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1016/ j.tics.2013.02.007
2. Knight, W., & Rickard, N. (2001). Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Journal of Music Therapy, 38(4), 254-272. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1093/jmt/38.4.254
3. Ascenso, S., Perkins, R., Atkins, L., Fancourt, D., & Williamon, A. (2018). Promoting well-being through group drumming with mental health service users and their carers. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 13(1), 1484219. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1080/17482631.2018.1484219
4. Moss, H., Lynch, J., & O'Donoghue, J. (2018). Exploring the perceived health benefits of singing in a choir: An international cross-sectional mixed-methods study. Perspectives in Public Health, 138(3), 160168. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1177/1757913917739652
5. Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Atkins, L., Fancourt, D., & Williamon, A. (2016). Making music for mental health: How group drumming mediates recovery. Psychology of Well-Being 6(11). https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/ 10.1186/s13612-016-0048-0
6. Gold, C., Mössler, K., Grocke, D., Heldal, T., Tjemsland, L., Aarre, T., Aarø, L., Rittmannsberger, H., Stige, B., Assmus, J., & Rolvsjord, R. (2013). Individual music therapy for mental health care clients with low therapy motivation: Multicentre randomised controlled trial. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 82(5), 319-331. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca /10.1159/000348452
7. World Health Organization (2017, December 12). Mental health of older adults. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults
8. The Awesome Music Project. (2019). https://www.theawesomemusicproject.com/amp4life