Health Benefits

Researchers are beginning to take seriously the idea that the act of singing not only
makes us feel good — it is also good for our health in several ways. Preliminary
research is also showing that singing has some unanticipated benefits for those with
short term memory loss and/or Parkinson’s Disease.

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF SINGING 

We know singing makes us FEEL good, but scientists are now finding proof that singing is also good for our health! Consider the following:

Singing increases your IgA antibodies. These antibodies are the body’s primary defense against pathogens, especially in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. (1)

Singing helps you live longer, according to a joint study done by Harvard and Yale on adults who sang in a Connecticut choir. Researchers think it is because singing increases oxygenation in the blood stream. (2)

Singing stimulates the vagus nerve – which slows the heart and helps singers relax. (3)

Production of hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly while people sang Mozart’s Requiem in a choir. When those same people were tested while listening, not singing, to the same piece of music a week later, their production of hydrocortisone did not increase. (4)

A five-year study done by George Washington University found that singers had fewer doctor’s visits than those who were not singing in the program. Singers also reported less depression and fewer new prescription medications. (5)

SOURCES:

(1)  Hunter, B.C. “Singing as a Therapeutic Agent” in the Journal of Music Therapy , 1999 pages 125-143

(2)  Welch, Graham; Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London quoted in Helping Hearts, Heart Research U.K.

(3)  Healy, Melissa; “Why singing in a group can be good for your health,” July 9, 2013, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

(4)  “Scientists say singing boosts immune system” January 19, 2004 on www.abc.net.au, reporting research from the University of Frankfurt in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine

(5)  Cohen, Gene, et al; “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning of Older Adults” in The Gerontolgist  2006 46(6)

BENEFITS OF SINGING for those with MEMORY LOSS

Researchers have begun investigating the effect of group singing for people who have dementia and their caregivers. Some of their findings:

An Australian study of adults over 70 with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers found that 29% experienced improved short-term memory after the singing sessions and 89% appeared lucid during the session. (1)

Female patients diagnosed with mid-stage dementia participated in 30-minute singing groups and experienced reduced negative sundowning behavior, increased positive mood, and increased appropriate social behaviors. (2)

An Icelandic study of 23 people with moderate to severe dementia found they had significant improvement in sociability and decrease in anxiety after participating in 30-minute singing sessions. (3)

In a 10-week study of those with early dementia, researchers compared the effects of singing with passive listening to music. Although those in both groups had improved moods, orientation and remote episodic memory – those in the singing group also had enhanced short-term and working memory. (4)

Alzheimer’s patients in a VA Medical Center in Massachusetts learned more lyrics when they were set to music than just spoken. A control group learned the name number of words regardless of whether they were sung or spoken. In both situations the songs were completely unfamiliar to the participants. Researchers hope this might lead to a new way of helping Alzheimer’s patients remember other things. (5)

SOURCES:

(1) Davidson, J.W. and Fedele, J. in Musicae Scientiae  15(3) 2011.

(2)Lesta, B and Petocz, P “Familiar group singing: Addressing mood and social behaviour of residents with dementia displaying sundowning” in Australian Journal of Music Therapy  Vol. 17, 2006

(3) Svansdottir, H.B. and Snaedal, J. “Music therapy in moderate and severe dementia of Alzheimer’s type A” in International Psychogeriatrics , 2006

(4) Sarkamo, Teppo; “Cognitive, Emotional and Social Benefits of Regular Musical Activities in Early Dementia” in The Gerontologist 2013

(5) Seligson, Susan; “Music Boosts Memory in Alzheimer’s; song may be key to remembering daily meds” June 15, 2010 Boston University

HEALTH BENEFITS OF SINGING for those living with PARKINSON’S DISEASE

For those with Parkinson’s Disease singing can help with: sustaining the voice, increasing and controlling volume, varying pitch and expression, improving diction, controlling vocal speed, increasing the fluidity of diction, improving posture. (1)

Basic vocal warm-up exercises can help to improve diaphragm and chest extension, and therefore, improve breath depth and stability of posture. Studies on the effect of singing to improve speech for people with Parkinson’s have shown significant improvements in voice production. Rhythmic chanting and singing can help to improve loudness and prevent slurring by supporting chest, throat, mouth and facial muscle mobility. It can also help with other speech problems such as stuttering, by stimulating motor regions in the brain that are involved in fluent articulation. (2)

SOURCES:
(1) European Parkinson’s Disease Association website 2014

(2) Canterbury University (England)

 

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