Music and Health: A Review of Research and Practice

A research paper commissioned by Voluntary Arts and produced by Nick Ewbank Associates for BBC Music Day 2019.

The paper covers dimensions of Music and Health, including the physiological benefits of music, with specific investigation into music and empathy. Key findings also highlight the value of music participation as an important tool for both personal wellbeing and social cohesion.

Investigation into music and the brain links music to many physiological effects, including: effective attachments in infants; the development of empathy in childhood; the regulation of our moods; and strategies for coping with stress. Research also links music to ameliorating specific health issues, such as dementia and lung health.

Key findings from the paper detail how active engagement in music making has been shown to have more of a positive impact on wellbeing than passive consumption. A dose-response relationship between arts engagement and mental wellbeing is highlighted in Australian researcher Dr Christina Davies’s study, which finds that people taking part in recreational creative activities, including music, for at least two hours a week reported a significant increase in their wellbeing.

Aligned with these findings, a person-centred and community-focused approach to health and wellbeing is being invested in through UK health policy, in the form of ‘social prescribing’. This is creating an increased role for music and wider arts engagement, and puts primary prevention and support for healthy lifestyles at the heart of health planning.

Music participation promotes personal well-being, and it also builds social cohesion. The paper finds that music can act as a medium of exchange to bridge diverse communities. These findings support the thinking behind BBC partnership projects such as Up For Arts and the Get Creative Festival, both of which aim to encourage people to be more creatively engaged in their local community. Barriers to access in taking part in music-making and other creative activities need to be addressed, as it is groups in less privileged socio-economic groups who tend to be exposed to health inequalities.

Music and Health Report

Download here: Music and Health PDF

Music and Health Fact Sheet

Download here: Music and Health Fact Sheet PDF

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