Music and Health

Here is an Rx for your anxiety, depression, learning difficulties, and immune system issues: MUSIC

In a 2009 study at the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Center for Health Care Sciences in Sweden, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study at the Department of Surgery, Södertälje Hospital in Sweden, the stress reducing effects of music of surgery patients were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

In a 2013 study led by Maria Dolores Onieya Zafra PhD and published in the American medical journal Pain Management Nursing, sixty people diagnosed with the painful musculoskeletal disorder fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In a 2011 study at the Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

A 2007 study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels coritsol and adrenaline, and also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6 — a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems.

In a 2013 study ran by Professor Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University’s Psychology Department, researchers explored immune system improvements due to listening to and/or performing music. ”We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Dr. Levitin. “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding.” Here is what some of their research concluded:

  • Listening to music was better than prescription medications in reducing stress before surgery.
  • People who listened to music had an increase in their levels of Immunoglobulin A, a type of antibody that helps to prevent infections.
  • Music listeners had higher numbers of an immune cell whose job it is to attack bacteria, infected cells, and cancerous cells.
  • Listening to music reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.  

Research by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music confirmed that singing for an hour can increase levels of immune proteins, reduce stress hormones, and improve mood. Nearly 200 singers were tested for levels of immune-system “messenger” compounds known as cytokines, and they all found a drastic decrease after engaging in singing. In another part of the study, people suffering with depression took part in a ten-week drumming program and saw on average a forty percent improvement in their illness.

Music has also been shown to improve learning and memory through its release of dopamine, a hormone which has been tied to motivation. In a 2014 report in the psychonomic journal Memory and Cognition, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to a) speak casually, b) speak in a rhythmic fashion, or c) sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients.

Have you had your medicine today?


Photo By RayNata (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (]