Understanding the Health Benefits of Music

by | Aug 9, 2023

The poet William Congreve wrote “music hath charms to sooth a savage breast”, but did you know that music also has great benefits for our general health? Understanding the health benefits of music can help us in our daily lives.

Your Favourite Tunes:

Listening to our favourite music has a positive effect on our emotional and psychological health. Music impacts our endocrine system (the production of hormones) which produces increased levels of dopamine (our ‘reward’ hormone) and decreases levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) when we are enjoying music.

Alternatively, listening to music we don’t like can have an adverse effect on mood and well-being and can be damaging to short-term memory performance.

Fast Tempo:

What we like to listen to is a personal preference, but faster tempo music tends to induce more positive emotions than a slower tempo.

Links have been found between preference for a certain musical genre and personality traits. Heavy metal music for example is often associated with aggression and antisocial behaviour, but a link has been found between this musical preference and personal characteristics such as a higher openness to new experiences and a greater need for uniqueness. Interestingly, fans of the genre who experienced anger and then listened to heavy metal did not experience an increase in anger, as might be expected, but an increase in positive emotions as they processed the anger.

Slow Tempo:

Researchers have found that the music we choose to listen to when studying or for relaxation before bedtime share similar characteristics – a slow tempo and repetitive pattern which helps to lower heart rate and reduce stress. Listening to background music prior to task performance increases processes such as attention and memory through increasing arousal and positive mood.

Music and Pain Relief:

Music has even been suggested as a complementary alternative to chronic pain medication. This music-induced analgesia involves not only pain-relief but also an improvement in sleep and motivation to exercise.

Music Benefits us Throughout all Stages of Life:

1. Pregnancy and Music:

Listening to music during pregnancy has been found to benefit the baby brain’s ability to better identify speech sounds.

2. Children:

Playing music can help children with their concentration skills. It has been found to help some children to reach their developmental milestones faster.

3. Autistic Spectrum:

Music therapy can help to improve social and emotional formation in children on the autistic spectrum. Finding the right musical experience for a child with autism can make it an engaging, calming, and enriching experience.

Musical Training

Musical training is rewarding in itself, but it also provides potential benefits to the brain, especially in the elderly, by counteracting age-related decline. Musical training has been found to preserve more youthful patterns of brain activity. Practising and listening to music also slows cognitive decline by the stimulation of the grey matter of the brain – where our brain cells, or neurons, are located.

So, what are your happy songs?

All research referenced from neurosciencenews.com