Music Health & Wellbeing

Music can be effective in improving health in various ways, either directly as a treatment or through indirect benefits from playing, learning or listening to music.

  How music can improve health/wellbeing [MacDonald et al (2012) Music, Health & Wellbeing. OUP]

Music is used to treat both physical and psychological conditions. For instance, listening to recorded music, particularly preferred music, can help people to cope with the experience of pain, while listening to live music can have a positive effect on the physical symptoms of child patients in cardiovascular wards. 

Music therapy has been practiced for nearly a century to treat a range of conditions. Although different models are practiced, all have at their centre a clinical relationship between therapist and client developed through playing or listening to music together. Scotland has a large number of active music therapists working to address psychological and developmental problems.

Music performance engages a wide range of complex physical, psychological and social processes. Because of this, playing music can benefit health even if that is not the main reason for playing. For instance, singing in choirs can improve breathing  and psychological difficulties among the elderly; and taking part in group music-making can improve wellbeing through increased self-confidence, for instance in musicians with disabilities.

As well as teaching music skills, music education itself can promote wellbeing. For instance, music lessons have been found to aid the development of prosocial skills such as cooperation and empathy in children, and may promote emotional and social development and self-esteem in those with learning difficulties. This potential may reflect the non-verbal nature of musical interaction.

Listening to music in everyday life can also influence health. For instance, people use music to moderate their emotional states, and music listening while exercising can promote and sustain performance.

These are just a few of the examples of the increasing number relationships found between music and health or wellbeing. You can read about current work in in Scotland to expand knowledge in this field here; some further links are below

Music therapy:

Nordoff-Robbins - Music Therapy in ScotlandMSc in Music Therapy at Queen Margaret University

Music participation:

Commonwheel/PolyphonyDrake Music ScotlandLimelight Music

Music listening and health:

Playlist for Life