“Music has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it doesn’t need mediation,” wrote the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. A new analysis has empirically confirmed something that rings true for many music lovers – that singing, playing or listening to music can improve well-being and quality of life, according to The Guardian.
A review of 26 studies from multiple countries, including Australia, the UK and the US, found that music can provide a clinically significant boost to mental health.
Seven of the studies involved music therapy, 10 looked at the effect of listening to music, eight looked at singing, and one looked at the effect of gospel music.
The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, confirmed that “music interventions are linked to significant improvements in well-being”, as measured quantitatively via standardized survey data on the quality of life. The effects were similar whether participants were singing, playing or listening to music.
The authors of the meta-analysis suggest that the benefit of music on mental quality of life was indeed close to the improvements in mental health due to exercise and weight loss.
“Future research is needed to clarify optimal music interventions and doses to use in specific clinical and public health scenarios,” the authors said, noting that there was “substantial individual variation in responses to music interventions” in the studies reviewed.
“Many of us know from personal experience how profound musical intervention can be at times that include episodes of surgery, poor health or mental health,” said Kim Cunio, associate professor and head of musicology at the Australian National University, who was not involved in the research.