Music, Health and Wellbeing
Many reports have been produced regarding our health and wellbeing and most reveal the obvious: too many pills, too much stress, too little employment, food, housing, education, or security. With evidence showing positive results from non-invasive, non-chemical, community-based, and artistically-driven medical remedies, research in science and health supports musicking as a means of improving the quality of our lives.
Anecdotal stories regarding the success of music for improving health abound, and many are supported with scientific studies. For example, some of the researched benefits and attributes of singing in a choir include rhythmicity (auditory and motor neuron connectivity), synchronicity (group breathing and heart rates), stress relief (cortisol decrease), physical therapy (abdominal and facial exercise), creativity (improvisational expression), depression management (serotonin increase), communal participation (primal needs of engagement), and “happiness” (increases in both oxytocin and dopamine). In addition to scientific studies at the physical and chemical level, the neuro component of musicking presents a mind-over-matter set of conditions that contribute to attaining not only good health, but also a good life.
In other areas of healthcare, governments are recognizing the benefits of communal creative activity. The United Kingdom, for example, has entered a phase of Social Prescribing recommending that doctors promote arts solutions for ailments such as dementia, psychosis, lung conditions, and mental health issues. Matt Hancock, British Health Secretary, recently spoke about the initiative: “We’ve been fostering a culture that’s popping pills and Prozac, when what we should be doing is more prevention and perspiration. […] Social prescribing can help us combat over-medicalising people” (Smithsonian 2018). Recommendations include singing lessons, dance lessons, or simply listening to preferred music playlists. The British government in 2018 appointed a Minister of Loneliness to address social and health issues caused by social isolation. Similar to stress, extended feelings of loneliness can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic inflammation, and even dementia. Creating programs that promote individual connection through communal activity, including many musicking opportunities, is one of their mandates.
Music is in us to share; it plays an important role in our personal and societal health and wellbeing.
GET OUT AND SING!