Your health on music

Posted on November 9, 2015 by Brynna Gabrielson

Your health on musicWhen was the last time you went a whole day without hearing any music? Not a single chord.

For most of us, it'd probably be quite difficult to answer that question. Whether it's on the radio in the car, on the speakers at the gym, wafting through the shops, or tunelessly humming out of a colleague's lips - music is all around us. And even better - it's good for us. Studies have shown a wealth of benefits provided by music, many of them positively affecting our health. We look at a few of them below. 

It helps with stress and anxiety
It's no secret that music make us feel good.  The right song can bring a smile to the grumpiest face. But did you know that it can actually help reduce stress and anxiety? For example, a study conducted by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that listening music could reduce stress levels by up to 61%1. As for anxiety, a study was conducted of patients about to go into surgery. Half of the patients were prescribed anti-anxiety medication while the other half were told to listen to music. The patients were tracked and at the end the group who listened to music reported lower levels of anxiety and were found to have less cortisol (the stress hormone) in their systems2

It eases pain
Various studies over the years have looked at the relation between listening to music and pain management.  In one study researchers found that music helped manage chronic pain of those suffering from Fibromyalgia3. It wasn't clear why the music helped - it was suggested that perhaps the music may have led to the release of a 'morphine' like chemical in the brain, or it may just be that it provided a distraction from the pain. The distraction theory seems to hold true with another study, which found that those who were exposed to a painful shock to the finger felt the pain less and less as they became more and more absorbed in the music they were listening to4.

It makes you work out harder
It's not unusual to see runners, cyclists and gym enthusiasts working out with their headphones on.  While some may just be listening to music for entertainment during their workout, that music may be doing more good than they are aware of.  In a study, 12 healthy males rode stationary bicycles for 30 minutes whilst listening to music. Over three trials they listened to music as they rode, once at regular tempo, once with a 10% decrease in tempo and once with a 10% increase in tempo.  Results found that when the tempo slowed, so did the men - their heart rates fell and they covered less distance. When the tempo was raised however, they worked harder and enjoyed their workout more. While the faster music didn't alleviate the discomfort of the work-out, it seemed to provide motivation to work harder5.

Music can also make a difference
One of the many charities we sponsor at Simplyhealth is Music in Hospitals, which provides concerts for older people in care. You can see what a difference these concerts make for these people in our video here.