LivingFor mental health, music could be as beneficial as...

For mental health, music could be as beneficial as exercise

Perhaps, if you consider yourself a music lover, you think, when reading the headline, that it is something you have always known. Now, a team of scientists has empirically confirmed that music (listening to it, singing it or dancing to it) is good for our mental health and, by extension, our quality of life.

A review of 26 studies conducted in various countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, concluded that music can provide a clinically significant boost to mental health. Seven of the studies involved music therapy, 10 looked at the effect of listening to music, eight looked at singing, and one looked at the effect of gospel music in general.

A growing number of studies are finding links between music and well-being, but knowing exactly why it works are areas where scientists continue to investigate, and that’s where this particular research can come in handy.

The meta-analysis involving a total of 779 people used the widely adopted and well-regarded Short Form 36-item Survey of Physical and Mental Health (SF-36) or the shorter alternative with 12 questions (SF-12) , which makes it easy to collate and synthesize the data.

“Increasing evidence supports music’s ability to broadly promote well-being and health-related quality of life (HRQoL),” the researchers write in their article published in JAMA Network Open. “However , the magnitude of the positive association of music with HRQoL remains unclear, particularly in relation to established interventions, limiting the inclusion of music interventions in health care and policy.”

Examination of the results confirmed that “musical interventions are linked to significant improvements in well-being” and the effects were similar whether participants sang, played or listened to music.

“This meta-analysis of 26 studies of music interventions provided clear, quantitative evidence of moderate quality that music interventions are associated with clinically significant changes in mental HRQoL,” the researchers write. “Furthermore, a subset of 8 studies showed that adding musical interventions to treatment as usual was associated with clinically significant changes in mental HRQoL in a variety of conditions.”

The study authors suggest that the benefit of music on mental quality of life had an effect close to improvements in mental health similar to that produced by exercise and weight loss.

Future research is needed to clarify optimal music interventions and dosages for use in specific clinical and public health scenarios,” the experts conclude.

Reference: J. Matt McCrary, Eckart Altenmüller et al. Association of Music Interventions With Health-Related Quality of LifeA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(3):e223236. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.3236

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