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The Marvellous Power of Music on Health


Did you know that music could be used by medical specialists to help your physical and mental health? 

Discover the magical healing capability of music and where it can intertwine with modern-day medicine


The beautiful, artistic expression of music can provide people with a great sense of comfort, serve as a mood uplifter and in the darkest of times may even serve as some people's only understanding friend. 


For some, music is present during both the highs and lows, deeply touching their soul. 


"Music is the art form which is most nigh to tears and memories" - Oscar Wilde


Music has the power to affect how a person feels and impacts a variety of different abilities, such as a person’s capacity to be creative and assists in the process of solving problems (1) 


The positive impact of music on mental health and physical health has been demonstrated through various research studies (2). Emotions have the potential to be governed by music (3) and can alter activity taking place in the brain which can have a ripple effect on activity in the heart (4). The idea that the effects of music could be positive for well-being and health could have phenomenal implications in helping to lessen problems associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and more (1). 


What Is Music Therapy?


Music therapy specifically can be defined as a treatment that utilises music, is usually delivered by healthcare specialists and can be adjusted to suit the patient personally (5). This treatment method may be considered a promising approach due to its cost-effectiveness (5).




There have been several research studies attempting to investigate the relationship between music (6). For example, there has been research that has linked lowered stress levels with music (6). This interesting relationship has been demonstrated through physical changes to aspects such as a decreased heart rate and lower levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in the body (7-9). In addition, music may have the ability to influence the amount of stress one experiences as it can divert one's attention away from negative thinking, allowing one to experience it less (10-11). A review of several research studies also found music therapy to be a good method for lowering stress levels (6). Overall, this encourages health professionals to practically use music as a treatment tool (6).


The Immune System


In terms of the immune system, studies have attempted to scientifically explore the impact of music on the immune system and if it triggers any changes (12). For example, a study compared the different effects of active music participation in contrast with passive music participation (12). The results showed that those that were in the active music participation group showed more noticeable changes in the immune system. Active participation involved taking part, for example, through playing an instrument or singing as opposed to passive which was based on solely listening (12). This could suggest that the type of music activity and a person’s level of involvement with the music could alter the type of influence that it has on the body. This is an idea that could be worth further exploration and research (12). However, regardless of this, the positive potential use of such results could involve using it to assist in the treatment of patients who are considered ill (2). 


Alzheimer's Disease & the Brain


Another aspect that music has appeared to be effective with is symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, specifically dementia (13). Music also appears to affect activity in the brain. For example, research reports have shown that music has been a helpful resource in decreasing how agitated or anxious elderly people diagnosed with senile dementia were (13). Furthermore, symptoms associated with a mild level of dementia such as experiencing hallucinations, feeling irritable, having delusions and feeling agitated have been shown according to research evidence to be alleviated by music therapy (14). Interestingly, the need for being prescribed drugs for such issues is reduced due to the positive effects of this treatment method in lowering levels of agitation (14). 


Diving more directly into the fascinating link between music and the brain, it's intriguing to see that activity taking place in structures of the brain can be altered by music, for example, the amygdala and mesolimbic reward system in the brain (15-16). As a consequence of changes to brain activity, negative emotions can be lessened through the experience of listening to music including anxiety (17). Altogether, these studies demonstrate the biological power music can have, for example, in the case of symptoms of dementia and its effect on the brain which can alter moods and shift emotions in a positive direction (15-17).


Anxiety & Depression 


Delving deeper into the impact of music on mental health, research has shown that music can have a positive effect on depression (18). For example, it has been shown that music can trigger positive emotions especially when tailored to suit an individual's preferences (18). In addition, a possible explanation for this effect may be explained by how music activates the reward system in the brain which promotes feelings of pleasure, therefore, as a consequence it could alleviate depressive feelings (19). Engaging in music therapy can help to relieve symptoms relating to both depression and anxiety because the process promotes feelings of relaxation and can assist a person in the process of emotional expression (20). These studies help to paint a positive picture of the usefulness of music for the treatment of mental disorders, however, it's important to note that there is likely not a one-size fits all approach that works for everyone and it’s likely that an intervention could be combined with other methods to help produce more beneficial results (21).


In a Nutshell…


In a nutshell, music is a powerful art form which can provide entertainment, a sense of deep connection and relief for many. It’s very exciting to know that something as accessible as music could have a noticeable impact on one’s health. It has been shown in research to elevate mood and can help to buffer against stress to an extent. Its positive effects have also been associated with changes in the immune system, being beneficial for symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and easing symptoms associated with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. This all strengthens the idea that music can be an extremely encouraging tool which could be used as a form of therapy and as a potential medicinal tool, especially with its cost-effectiveness. 


However, it’s also important to recognise that further research is likely required in this area. Aspects such as the genre of music and type of music activity could be explored in more depth for a more well-rounded understanding of its effects. It’s also worth emphasising that different approaches may be suitable for different people and that music on its own may not be the sole solution for a physical or mental health issue but perhaps a valuable aid in addition to other treatment methods. 


by Tasnim Tayo



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