The Mental Health Benefits of Singing, According to Science
Have you ever wondered why singing in the shower, humming along with the radio in the car, or belting out the lyrics to your favorite song just feels so good? Researchers at the University of Helsinki may have found the answer.
Results of a study of 162 healthy adults ages 60 and above suggest that those who regularly sang in a choir experienced better verbal flexibility, meaning they increased their ability to vocally produce lyrics while also focusing on the structure of the music, its rhythm and melody, the perception of their own voice and those of the other singers, correcting their own voice and adjusting it to others, emotional expression, and following the conductor's directions.
In other words, they became master musical multitaskers. What’s more, participants who boasted longtime choir participation—10 or more years—experienced greater social integration than their peers.
Although the Finnish study involved older adults, other research suggests that other demographic groups can also see health benefits from singing in a group. A study published in the open-access cancer journal ecancermedicalscience found that cancer patients and caregivers alike experienced a boost to their immune system and mood and lowered stress after singing in a choir for just one hour. Those who were the most depressed experienced the greatest improvement to their mood after the experiment.
If you aren't in a choir—or prefer carrying a tune all on your own—there’s still a good reason to belt out a number or two. In 2020, researchers from Oxford Brookes University set out to compare the psychological well‑being of choral singers, solo singers, band or orchestra members, solo musicians, team sport players, and solo sport players. Their research found that participants across groups reported similar levels of happiness, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and psychological well‑being.
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