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Tune up your health with singing in groups

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

There was a time a few years back when I felt isolated and a little bored — so I shelved my concern about being anything but “musically gifted” and joined our local Community Choir. After just a few weeks I found myself bonding with all sorts of people beyond my usual circle. My spirits soared and my heart opened as we sang joyful, inspirational songs calling for compassion and justice. 

Singing in the choir has so expanded and brightened my life, I couldn’t resist seeing if it offered documented health benefits. Sure enough, there is a body literature explaining just why we feel so good when we sing together — and I don’t need to remind regular readers how happiness and whole-body health support your bones.

Here’s the data…maybe it will encourage you to sign up and sing along!

Documented health benefits of singing in groups:

  • Enhancement of positive immune factors. Research documented a 150% increase in the protective secretary immunoglobulin A during rehearsals and a 240% increase during performance.
  • Improved lung function, breathing awareness, and memory training — all skills needed for singing, but beneficial to all aspects of physical and mental health.
  • Spiritual uplift and enhancement of psychological well-being, leading to a substantial reduction in the stress hormones. One study reported a 30% reduction in cortisol level during rehearsals and a 37% reduction during performance.
  • Neurological changes have been documented in groups of singers working together. Two amazing videos (when you have time) are this clip from singer Bobby McFerrin’s World Science Festival panel and a longer clip  about how singing together improves health.
  • Enhanced social interaction promoting “togetherness” based on a common experience, especially if the choir is an inclusive, community-based organization. Singers’ self-reported group cohesion is even greater than that reported in sports teams. 

These are just a few high notes — but personally, I wouldn’t miss a practice, and concerts are magically uplifting.  Why not give singing a try and let me know your checklist of benefits!

 

References:

Beck, R. J., T. C. Cesario, A. Yousefi and H. Enamoto (2000). "Choral Singing, Performance Perception, and Immune System Changes in Salivary Immunoglobulin A and Cortisol." Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 18(1): 87-106.

Kreutz, G., S. Bongard, S. Rohrmann, V. Hodapp and D. Grebe (2004). "Effects of choir singing or listening on secretory immunoglobulin A, cortisol, and emotional state." J Behav Med 27(6): 623-635.

Johnson, J. K., J. Louhivuori, A. L. Stewart, A. Tolvanen, L. Ross and P. Era (2013). "Quality of life (QOL) of older adult community choral singers in Finland." Int Psychogeriatr 25(7): 1055-1064.

Stewart, N. A. J. and A. J. Lonsdale (2016). "It’s better together: The psychological benefits of singing in a choir." Psychology of Music.

Clift, S. M. and G. Hancox (2001). "The perceived benefits of singing: findings from preliminary surveys of a university college choral society." J R Soc Promot Health 121(4): 248-256.

 

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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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