Talk With a Doc

Music offers many health benefits to listeners

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

The following was recently reported by the USA National Institutes of Health. According to a growing body of research, listening to or playing music affects the brain in ways that may help to improve our overall health, and may also help us to manage various disease symptoms.

This recent research has shown that performing or listening to music will activate a variety of structures in the brain that are involved in our thinking, our body movements, and our emotions. These brain effects can certainly offer all of us significant physical and psychological health benefits.

Increasing evidence suggests that listening to music may be helpful for health conditions that occur during childhood, adulthood, or aging. However, it should be noted that much of this recent research on music and our health is truly in its early stages.

This preliminary research that has been done so far suggests that music-based interventions may be helpful for patients to deal with anxiety, depression, and pain associated with a variety of health conditions. Again, please recall that this research on the impact of music on our overall health is preliminary, and fortunately, it is on-going.

Let us now take a look at the information reported by the U.S. NIH about the possible positive impact that music can have of some various common health conditions including pain, depression, and stress.

≤ Pain — The following was reported in a previous review of 97 randomized controlled trials involving more than 9,000 participants. They reviewed what listening to music provided for patients that had acute or chronic pain associated with a variety of health problems and medical procedures. The overall evidence suggested that listening to music likely had beneficial effects on both pain intensity and emotional distress from pain, and may also have led to decreased use of pain-relieving medicines.

≤ Depression — These studies found some evidence that when music is added to the usual treatments for depression, this may improve the symptoms of depression, when compared with the usual treatments for depression alone. There is also some evidence that music may help to decrease anxiety levels in people with depression, and therefore allow them to have an improved healthy lifestyle.

≤ Stress — A recent review further analyzed the effects of a variety of music on stress, including the impact of music on heart rate, blood pressure, and psychological measures, including anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, and feelings of worry. Adding music to deal these symptoms of stress also showed some beneficial effect on a person’s ability to deal with these stressful issues. An additional review of 47 studies of nearly 3,000 participants who received a form of music therapy also found an overall beneficial effect on the ability of these patients to deal with their stress.

I am sure that many of us can relate to some of these early research findings on a personal basis. For example, I know that I have often found myself enjoying a song or some music I hear on the radio in my car, or that I may be listening to at home. Now that I have given this some more thought, I believe that my personally listening to some enjoyable music may have improved my mood and made me feel better, or may have also brought back some pleasant memories of happy events in the past.

Overall, this preliminary evidence continues to show that there are many benefits of music that may improve our overall health and also help us to deal with various specific health issues.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of the best-selling SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet book and his new Joke Book, entitled “Laughter Is Good Medicine.” Dr. Jim’s website is sosdietbook.com.


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