Music boosts mental and physical health
The first large-scale review of more than 400 research papers on the subject revealed that music--both playing it and listening to it--provides a myriad of benefits to both mental and physical health. According to the findings, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, music has a significant impact on four different areas of health: immunity, mood management, stress and social bonding.
First, several studies indicated that music can improve the body’s immune system function in different ways. For example, music increases the activity of an antibody associated with the mucous system – one of the more important functions within the body’s overall immune system. Music also apparently increases the number of ‘killer cells’ in the body, or the cells that attack invading infections.
Music also has a significant impact on stress, anxiety and depression. One study found that listening to music actually reduced anxiety in patients about to undergo surgery better than prescription anxiety medications. A 2011 report revealed that music could reduce anxiety in cancer patients and lowers the overall level of cortisol – a stress hormone – in the body. Finally, music therapy, when combined with other therapies, was successful in treating depression.
After singing the praises of music's effects on health, the report also offered suggestions for further research. For example, questions remain on the effects of playing music as opposed to listening to it, and what role the chemical oxytocin – often called ‘the love drug’ – plays in musical experiences.