Research shows singing improves mental health and wellbeing
10 December 2015
Research on West Kent and Medway singing groups has shown that singing improves people’s mental health and wellbeing, including reducing anxiety, stress and depression.
Since the end of 2014, The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University has been running a research project to explore the potential impact regular group singing has on participants’ mental health and wellbeing.
Four community singing groups were established across West Kent and Medway, in Chatham, Dartford, Maidstone and Sevenoaks, for people with experience of mental health issues. The groups met weekly between November 2014 and December 2015.
Participants were asked to complete short questionnaires to measure the level of mental distress they were experiencing at the beginning of the project, in February, and again in July. The results showed that singing significantly reduced the participants’ feelings of mental distress, anxiety and depression, and improved their mental wellbeing more generally.
One participant recorded: “I have really enjoyed the singing group. I feel happier and less lonely on the walk home. I find myself singing some of the tunes which stick in my head. I am a very anxious and nervous person. I’m hoping the group continues to lift my mood and I feel confident enough to continue attending."
West Kent and Medway singing groups performing
Through the evaluations, the Sidney De Haan Centre also discovered that some participants had used the singing groups as an alternative to health services. Another participant said: “Because it has been keeping my general mood up it means I’ve actually been accessing the psychiatric services less frequently and the few occasions I have had to get in touch with them, I’ve not been as bad as I can sometimes be.
“I think having the singing group has been keeping me quite balanced for a while which means that it’s been a lot easier to get through the psychiatric process and waiting lists. It has been an immense help in that respect.”
Now, consideration is being given to ways in which the singing groups in West Kent and Medway can be sustained beyond the end of the project, as they have been in the East Kent region.
Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre at Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “The project in West Kent, which replicated our East Kent project in 2011, shows that the participants’ reaped the same positive benefits of social interaction and peer support offered through the singing groups, which helped to clinically improve their mental health conditions. Some of the benefits experienced by the participants included an increase in self-worth and self-confidence, a reduction in stress, an improvement in memory and concentration and a sense of inclusion.
“The singing groups continue to prove to be a cost-effective health strategy especially at a time when social care and health budgets are being squeezed from all sides. We hope that this evidence will allow us to conduct more research in to health economics, to further support our argument for arts on prescription.”
Notes to Editor
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.
- 95% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey