Research Shows the Health Benefits of Music

By Jacob Devaney on Friday November 6th, 2015

Scientists are now supporting the claim that Music is Medicine

There are many mindfulness practices to stimulate inner awareness, increase health, and elevate our mood. Now we can add to that list practices such as listening to Mozart with your full being while sipping tea, singing a pop-song out loud while you drive across town, or losing your body to ecstatic dancing. Scientific research now shows us the ways that music has a physiological effect on our bodies and can improve concentration, relieve stress, act as an antidepressant and more.

Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients.
– Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body

Take a moment and listen to Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues and you will be transported to another time. Sing along with her and you may ooze with the feelings as if they are your own. Crank up Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and you will be filled with emotions you may have never known existed. This capacity to feel is core to having compassion, yet music also has a profound effect on cognitive processes and learning also.

Listening to musicMusic has a profound effect on cognitive processes and learning

Auditory biology is not frozen in time. It’s a moving target. And music education really does seem to enhance communication by strengthening language skills.
– Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology & Physiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University as well as the principal investigator at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory

Musical entrainment

Musical entrainment creates connection both internally and externally which can be seen when watching a whole crowd dance to a live band, or the people around you sobbing at an opera. Science explains this as an aspect of mirror neurons, which are a form of mimicking that can happen emotionally and physically. Maybe a song will give you chills, make you cry, or spontaneously start jamming on an air guitar, or dancing uncontrollably. In the study, The Neuroscience of Music, published by the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Montreal, researchers found preliminary scientific evidence supporting claims that music influences health through neurochemical changes in four domains: reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.

Woman listening to musicListening to music has potentially therapeutic effects

The potential therapeutic effects of music listening have been largely attributed to its ability to reduce stress and modulate arousal levels. Listening to ‘relaxing music’ (generally considered to have slow tempo, low pitch, and no lyrics) has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy subjects, patients undergoing invasive medical procedures (e.g., surgery, colonoscopy, dental procedures, pediatric patients undergoing medical procedures, and patients with coronary heart disease.
The Neurochemistry of Music

Human cultural universal

It is no surprise that music has been used in ritual and ceremony since the beginning of time. Women share playlists for the delivery room to welcome new life. You can even higher a hospice harpist to help the transition from a terminal disease. Music education has also been shown to help children’s developing brains. So it is only natural to place it in a category for mindfulness, meditation, and healing.

Music is a language of energy, a “vibe” of emotions and joy. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It speaks to our core desires and feelings. It spans language barriers and political borders, making it a powerful means through which humans can connect.
– Patrick Groneman

Crowd listening to musicMusic is a powerful means through which humans can connect

Music is also a reflection of culture. In today’s world we are experiencing an unprecedented fusion of ideas through the internet and technology. We are re-mixing historical themes, embellishing forgotten ideas and combining belief systems across time and societies. For instance, electronic dance music has captured wide acclaim as DJs and producers improvise with musical tools that have the ability to drop samples, mix, change tempo and induce ecstatic states of consciousness. This music has become central to the emerging transformational, or visionary culture that is influencing our world view through integrating art, spirituality and technology.

As with everything else, it is our conscious intention or lack of it, that makes the difference in our experience.Try exploring new music when you want to get out of a rut. Just as you are what you eat, you should choose your music wisely because it is influencing the way you feel whether you notice it or not.

Jacob Devaney

Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.



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Racil HilanMissBrenda Lee GertmanAmy OestreicherAllieDavid E. Robinson III Recent comment authors

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David E. Robinson III
David E. Robinson III

I love this article. “RESEARCH” is the word. Music is much more important than many people realize. Some government and school officials want to cut it out of the public schools. They may leave in general music, but cut out band and orchestra where a student can actually actively engage in playing a musical instrument. In instrumental music, playing an instrument to make music can build a child’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, which can help in all academic subjects such as math, science, social studies, language arts, and foreign languages. Being a part of the school band or orchestra… Read more »

Emily W
Emily W

Very well said. I will also add that choir is also beneficial in many of the same ways orchestra and band are.

Clark Hodge
Clark Hodge


Tamara Nerdrum
Tamara Nerdrum

Hi Jacob et al.
Love the article on “Research Shows the Health Benefits of Music” dated Friday November 6th, 2015. There are many viewpoints that are similar to my Master’s Thesis, titled, “Neurobiology of Healing Traumatic Brain Injury: Using Music as the Connecting Chord.” It is published through ProQuest in June 2014. Much of the research was based on Oliver Sack’s work and his published case studies, but the newer research was cited from the neuroscience and psychology departments at McGill University. It is fascinating science, which is now measured through MRI and PET scans.

David E. Robinson III
David E. Robinson III

Yes, all music. Orchestra gets cut first. General music and choral music are likely to remain longer. President Obama sang in the chorus in his schools growing up. I stress instrumental music, especially orchestra because it gets “cancelled out” in a music discussion where officials say, “we didn’t cut out all music. Go sing in the chorus.” If they cut out band and orchestra, they will cut out general music and chorus next.


Beautiful article, thank you! I am a musician and intuitively know this all firsthand. Wonderful to read scientific research regarding music and its relationship to our core emotions. Loved it!!!

*There is a typo in the article. Boxed quote from Patrick Groneman has two of the same sentence. Just FYI. 😉 *

Amy Oestreicher
Amy Oestreicher

I absolutely love this article! I used composing music to find myself after my coma and surgeries. To find myself again after so many medical interventions, I painted, I
danced, I wrote, I sang – but it was the act of writing and putting
those words to music – to sing them from my gut – that allowed me to
accept my body again – a body vastly different from the one I grew up
in. Songwriting was my therapy, and within a month, I had written over
thirty songs. I wrote a bit about it here: https://www.amyoes.com/2015/09/23/composing-the-way-back-from-coma-three-songs/

MissBrenda Lee Gertman
MissBrenda Lee Gertman

I knew it!!!