Research Study Proposes Music Could Prevent 800,000 Preventable Deaths

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that music could prevent around 800,000 preventable deaths each year, after finding clear evidence that musical engagement improves overall well-being and health, decreases anxiety and improves mood.

Matt McCrary, assistant lecturer at UNSW’s Prince of Wales Clinical School and co-author of the study publishing the effect of music, said in an UNSW Press release that his study found that engaging in music induces an emotional response that has a physiological component. Any engagement, whether singing, listening, or playing an instrument, can induce this response.

McCrary said explanations for music’s ability to evoke emotional responses are hotly debated. But, capacity seems to be related to the emotional bond that forms between musicians, who design sound with emotional intent, and listeners who receive those emotions.

McCrary said emotional responses to music activate various regions of the brain and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) – a biological system that regulates involuntary processes such as breathing and heart rate. He said that more specifically, most musical engagements trigger a “fight or flight” response which is followed by a “rest and digest” response at the end of the music.

“My working hypothesis is that repeatedly engaging with music and eliciting these patterns of autonomic nervous system activation increases our ability to respond effectively to stress, which in turn improves our health and well-being. in general.”

Additionally, patterns of ANS activation in response to music are similar to patterns experienced during exercise, although McCrary stated that exercise-elicited responses are of higher amplitude.

The most exciting thing about these results is the information they provide about the potential impact of music on our overall health. For example, exercise is associated with preventing 1.6 million annual deaths,” McCrary said.

“If music can have half that impact, we envision preventing 800,000 preventable deaths per year. So the potential here is exciting if we can figure out how to target and maximize the effects of music,” he explained.

Any engagement, whether singing, listening, or playing an instrument, can induce this response. (Farknot Architect/Shutterstock)

McCrary said in an email to The Epoch Times that the main finding of the study was that music had a significant positive impact on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) — a measure representing overall health and well-being. -to be in general. He said the magnitude of the impact of music was about half the impact that exercise has on HRQoL.

McCrary added that a main hypothesis his team is currently investigating is that constant engagement with music may have preventative effects on non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“As a result, the magnitude of music’s impact on health-related quality of life gives us a rough estimate of its potential impact on non-communicable disease mortality,” McCrary said.

“In terms of combining music and exercise (i.e. dancing) or what type of musical engagement is best for health, these are still very open and unanswered questions that we are currently investigating” , said McCrary.

He also said music could be used to treat anxiety and depression in people with substance abuse issues, adding that existing research shows that music can help improve health outcomes for these people.

However, the study researchers acknowledged that the impact of music, as seen in the study results, varied widely between individuals.

“At present this is a huge limitation, as ‘prescribing’ a certain type of music to an individual is likely to produce a wide range of responses from ‘no effect’ to ‘great effects'” , said McCrary.

“We aim to address this variability in future research projects by targeting emotional responses to music (eg, pleasure, relaxation) in relation to specific types of music (eg, classical, pop).”

Epoch Times Photo
While exercise is important for all ages, the study found that people can also get health benefits from listening to music. (Shutterstock)

However, analysis of the study did not highlight methods for optimizing music processing such as how long or how often a patient should engage in music.

McCrary said that given the current limitations of musical treatment, much more work needs to be done to ensure that music is reliably prescribed to an individual with its maximum health benefits. However, he said the study contributes to a better understanding of the average impact of music on health.

He said that to realize the potential of music in healthcare, the next step is to develop a framework to enable reliable prescriptions that will maximize the impact of music on patient health.

“This framework was developed theoretically, adapting key information from developing reliable exercise prescriptions,” McCrary said.

“The immediate next step is to empirically test this prescribing framework and see if it can consistently produce positive health outcomes in a variety of real-world settings, for example, clinical rehabilitation and public health programs.”

He said the first numerical evidence of the clinically significant impact of music on well-being and HRQoL was provided by this study.

“Previous systematic reviews used narrative methods to synthesize the wide range of, often conflicting, findings regarding the impact of music on health,” McCrary said.

“That is to say, this study aimed to be very direct and quantitative, taking a ‘cold’ and unbiased approach to the effects of music, and I was not sure whether the impact of music on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) would be quantifiably significant.

Music is an inexpensive and easy way to improve several aspects of our lives and have fun doing it. (Lopolo/Shutterstock)

He also said that this study helped to compare and contextualize the impact of music on health against methods currently used to improve HRQoL, such as weight loss and exercise for the first time. The researchers made this possible by focusing on studies that used the most popular brief health survey (SF), the SF-36, which, as its name suggests, contains 36 items.

McCary noted however, at this time, he hasn’t seen any evidence to suggest certain genres of music have a greater impact on your health.

“The music that has the greatest impact on health and well-being seems to be the music you enjoy the most because playing it and listening to it correlates with the strongest emotional and physiological response,” McCrary said. . “For some it may be classical music, and for others it may be heavy metal.”

Matt McCrary and his colleagues published the results of their study on the effect of music engagement on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in JAMA Network Open. The research study included 26 eligible studies involving 779 participants.

Paul N. Strickland