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 In Attention, Music, Stress

Classical Music Reduces StressMany people listen to music to relax and numerous studies have demonstrated that listening to music has benefits. New research from the Royal College of Music’s Centre for Performance Science contributes to mounting evidence of music’s healthful effects. The study finds that classical music reduces stress for the listeners and the musicians. The findings may aid in the development of treatments for mood disorders or conditions that heighten stress.

The researchers gathered data from 15 singers and 49 audience members at a vocal performance. The data consisted of ECG readings, questionnaires, and saliva samples—tested for stress hormones cortisol and cortisone.

Singing and watching others sing reduced stress in the study participants. Audience members’ stress hormone levels fell after the performance. The audience members also reported decreased feelings of fear, tension, confusion, and sadness, and increased feelings of relaxation and connectedness. For the singers, stress hormone levels fell during a low-stress rehearsal, but increased during the performance, which the researchers expected. They also found that the act of singing reduced the ratio of cortisol to cortisone, which suggests that singing is inherently relaxing.

“This is the first time participation in a cultural event has been shown to have significant psychobiological effects, and the implications of that are hugely exciting,” stated Aaron Williamson, Professor of Performance Science at Royal College of Music. “This preliminary study provides several new avenues of further investigation of how making and experiencing music can impact on health and well-being.

The researchers plan to replicate this experiment at a concert this month.

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