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We’ve long been told of the benefits of listening to music whilst pregnant, of how music enhances a child’s learning, how music can help in our studies and work, but when it comes to addressing our health, a whole range of latest studies are telling us that the positive effects of music could outweigh those of medication.
In a recent article published by Berkley University, Jill Suttie summarises the ways that recent research has looked into ways that music may improve our health and the cases in which music’s positive impact on our wellbeing may be more powerful than a trip to the doctor or the psychologist.
The article addresses the traditional health concerns of stress and anxiety, pain, immune system function, exercise and memory.
1. Music reduces stress
When addressing issues of stress and anxiety, traditionally we know that music can prevent an increase in the heart rate – a marker of stress. The first study claims that when looking at the impact of music on patients requiring surgery, the stress-reducing effects were more powerful than an orally administered drug.
2. Pain Reduction through Music
Though it isn’t clear why, music does appear to reduce pain. Another study looked at a group of 60 patients, half of whom selected music to listen to before and after their surgeries, the others to continue with general pre and post-operative care; using medical visual analogue scales, the patients’ levels of pain-induced stress and anxiety were significantly reduced when listening to music.
3. Improved Immune Function
Some researchers now claim that music could actually help prevent disease. The study that has come from Massachusetts General Hospital, U.S. found that critically ill patients who listened to the piano sonatas of Mozart lowered their stress hormone levels as well as affecting the levels of blood which in turn, affected mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems.
4. Music may help Memory
Music and memory, especially when applied to studying, has always been something the experts encourage us to do. Now, medical researchers are focusing their attention on specific groups, namely those who have suffered memory loss because of illness. Stroke patients were assigned to listen to self-selected music or an audio book, some listened to nothing. After certain lapses of time, these patients were tested in several cognitive measures the results showing significant improvement in verbal memory and focused attention that the patients of the group who had not been exposed to music.
Listening to upbeat, motivational music when exercising, has been shown to extend the length of time we enjoy working out, the increased activity helping to release endorphins that lift our mood and like a domino effect, impact health issues in a very positive way. Or as sports researchers Peter Terry and Costas Karageorghis have said, “Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise.”