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World's first controlled research study into benefits of singing proves positive impact on health

17 August 2012

A pioneering research project to measure the value of singing for older people has revealed a consistently higher measure of health for those involved in community singing programmes.

The findings have also revealed singing groups for older people are cost-effective as a health promotion strategy.

In the world’s first randomised controlled trial into the health benefits of community singing, conducted by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, the two year research project assessed the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness for older people taking part in singing groups and the impact it has on their physical and mental health.  

Professor Stephen Clift, Director of Research at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, said: “Our research has not only cemented previous studies that pointed to an increase in health benefits from community singing programmes, but also demonstrated that singing programmes are a cost-effective method of health promotion against NHS measures for this group of people.

“The design of the study has enabled us to put a value on the results which could ultimately result in substantial cost savings for the NHS and local authority adult services.”

Dr John Rodriguez, Assistant Director of Public Health, NHS Kent and Medway, said: “I’m delighted to see such world-class research in this field helping to provide evidence that singing programmes present a viable additional means to promoting the mental health of older people.”

Working with two sample groups of 240 volunteers over 60 years old, where one group took part in weekly singing sessions over three months and the other didn’t, the research revealed an increase in the mental health component score on a validated health measure amongst the group of singers. It also revealed significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores on a separate widely used NHS measure amongst the singing group.

The results also pointed towards an improvement in quality of life scores, on a measure used to assess the cost-effectiveness of health interventions, and recognised by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The project was funded by an award of £250,000 from the National Institute for Health Research’s “Research for Patient Benefit” programme and worked closely with third sector organisation Sing For Your Life to facilitate the singing groups.

The Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent were also part of the research team, leading on trial design and data analysis.

Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health is part of Canterbury Christ Church University and is committed to researching the potential value of music, and other participative arts activities, in the promotion of wellbeing and health of individuals and communities.

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For interview opportunities with Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, contact the Canterbury Christ Church Press Office on 01227 782826 or email katie.scoggins@canterbury.ac.uk.

Notes to Editor

 - Previous research has been conducted by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health into the benefits of singing for health, but this is the first controlled study of its kind which scientifically proves that singing groups have benefits for older people in general.

- The volunteers were recruited for the study in February 2010 from areas across East Kent.

- The research was based upon quality of life (QoL) questionnaires which involved both physical and mental health components and a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) used to measure anxiety and depression.

Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Music, Arts and Health

  • The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Music, Arts and Health is internationally recognised for its commitment to researching the potential value of music, and other participative arts activities, in the promotion of wellbeing and health of individuals and communities.
  • The Folkestone based Centre has completed a systematic review of research on singing and health, conducted a cross-national survey of choral singers in Australia, England and Germany, and undertaken a formative evaluation of the 'Silver Song Club Project' run by Sing For Your Life Ltd.
  • The Centre continues its research on singing for the wellbeing and health of older people, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease patients and people with enduring health problems.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students, and five campuses across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 93% of our recent UK undergraduates are in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies
  • Christ Church is the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2010 UCAS).
  • We are the South East’s largest provider of courses for public service careers (outside of London).
  • 2012 is the University’s Golden Jubilee, reflecting on 50 years of higher education and innovation.

*2010/11 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

For media enquiries:

Katie Scoggins
01227 782826