Music has accompanied humanity since prehistory and it turns out that this artistic expression has contributed to our health.
An analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, reviewing 26 studies conducted in various countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, confirmed that music can provide a clinically significant boost to mental health.
Dr. Matt McCrary, of the University of New South Wales School of Health and Medicine, said that interaction with music – which includes listening to music, playing an instrument or singing – elicits an emotional response that also has an emotional component. physiological.
He stated that the physiological implications of this emotional response are extensive activation of many brain regions as well as the autonomic nervous system, specifically the “fight or flight” (sympathetic) response during most of the musical engagement, followed by an increase in “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) activity after the cessation of the music.
“My working hypothesis is that repeatedly listening to music and eliciting these patterns of autonomic nervous system activation increases our ability to respond effectively to stress, which in turn improves our overall health and well-being,” Dr. McCrary, associate professor at UNSW’s Prince of Wales Clinical School in Sydney.
As for whether contemporary pop, heavy metal or classical music generate more or less well-being, the research maintains that there is currently no evidence to support whether one specific genre is better than another; the important thing is that it is music that you like.
“The music that has the most impact on health and well-being seems to be the one that people like the most, since playing and listening to it corresponds to the strongest emotional and physiological response. For some it may be classical music, and for others it may be heavy metal,” added Dr. McCrary.
The study found that music triggers patterns of autonomic nervous system activation similar to what we experience when we exercise. However, the magnitude of these responses to music is smaller in amplitude compared to exercise.
This tangible positive effect of music appears to be about half the impact of the health benefits of regular exercise.
“What is most exciting about these results is the information they provide about the potential impact of music on our general health. For example, exercise is associated with the prevention of 1.6 million deaths annually. If music can have half this impact, we are looking at preventing 800,000 preventable deaths per year. So the potential is exciting if we can figure out how to focus and maximize the effects of music,” McCrary concluded.
“I firmly believe in the power of music to improve my own life and the lives of the people I have been fortunate enough to reach out to through music.”
— Dr McCrary, Associate Professor, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW Sydney.
Deaths around the world could be prevented thanks to the effects of music on well-being.
Music can significantly reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care or palliative medicine.
help the heart
Research has shown that blood flows more easily when listening to music. It can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Research has found that listening to music can trigger biochemical stress reducers.
Relieves symptoms of depression
When you’re feeling down, music can help you get up, just like exercise.
Help you eat less
Playing soft music in the background (and dimming the lights) during a meal can help you eat more slowly and ultimately consume less food.
(Source: NorthShore University Health System)
Dr Matt McCrary Associate Professor, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW Sydney
Q: How did you start studying the relationship between music and well-being?
– My interest stems from personal experience. I am a former professional drummer/percussionist and have a degree in music performance, so I definitely believe in the power of music to improve both my own life and the lives of others. In this project and in my research in general, I set aside my personal feelings and aim to take a cool, objective look at whether the undeniable personal accounts of the positive impact of music (which have been reported for centuries) also include tangible and measurable in health.
Q: Tell us about the current results.
– The results demonstrate, for the first time in a quantitative way, that music interventions are associated with “clinically significant” improvements in health-related quality of life (a measure of general health/well-being). In other words, the repeated practice of music has a real and tangible positive impact on our health. In addition, we focused on music studies that included the most widely used health-related quality of life survey in the world. This allowed us to quantitatively compare the effects of music with those of other interventions: repeated music practice had approximately half the impact of exercise interventions, and similar effects to weight loss interventions on related quality of life. with health. The big caveat in all of this is that individual variation in the impact of music participation is very large, which means that it is still unclear how to reliably “prescribe” music for maximum health benefits in individuals. a given individual (eg, how long/frequent, what kind of involvement in music). I hope to address this issue in future projects.
Q: How can music improve well-being and quality of life? What does music have to achieve this effect of well-being?
– The specific ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of music’s ability to elicit this emotional response are still the subject of much debate, but seem to be related to creating an emotional connection between the musicians (who create the sound with intention). emotional) and the listeners (who receive this emotional information). My working hypothesis is that, like exercise, repeatedly engaging in music (and eliciting patterns of autonomic nervous system activation) increases our ability to respond effectively to stress, which in turn improves our health and general well-being.
Q: How do the quality-of-life benefits of music compare to those of exercise?
– The results of our analysis revealed that repeated music practice had about half the impact of exercise, and more or less similar effects to weight loss, on health-related quality of life.