World first: singing improves mental wellbeing of older people
15 July 2015
As the population ages, caring for older people will put a greater demand on the country's health and social care budget.
New research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows how community singing can have a positive impact on the mental health and quality of life of older people for little cost, and should be considered an important element in any public mental health strategy for our aging population.
In a world’s first randomised controlled trial on community singing and health, research looked at the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of community singing on the health and wellbeing of older people. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and conducted by the Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, Centre for Health Studies at the University of Kent and the former primary care trusts.
Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health and Chief Investigator for the project, explained: “Over the years we have conducted research at the Centre looking at the impact singing can have on specific clinical conditions, but there has been little rigorous research looking at the value of community singing on mental health related to quality of life of older people.
“Our research has shown that group singing can have a significant positive effect on mental health and quality of life, including reducing anxiety, depression and the feeling of loneliness and isolation experienced by so many older people, which can have a serious effect upon their wellbeing.”
Simon Coulton, Professor in the Centre for Health Service Studies at the University of Kent and Principal Investigator for the project, said: “The work represents an innovative approach to managing the health of older people in the community, and the first rigorous scientific study in this field.
“The provision of community singing groups not only improves the health of older people, but also has the potential to save the NHS a significant amount of money in terms of less use of general practitioner and hospital services.”
Dr John Rodriguez, was Assistant Director of Public Health for Eastern and Coastal Kent at the time of the research, and is also an author for the report. He commented: “We know now that group singing gives a clear overall pattern of measurably better mental health, less anxiety, less depression and better quality of life.
“Singing has numerous spin-offs and benefits that conventional treatments do not offer, such as making friends, which we just cannot measure. Singing together does improve the health in older people.”
Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of community singing on mental health-related quality of life of older people: randomised controlled trial can be viewed here.
For more information on the work of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health visit the website.
Notes to Editor
Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health
Established ten years ago, the Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University is a world leader in researching the potential value of music, and other participative arts activities, in the promotion of wellbeing and health of individuals and communities, and continues to build the case for Singing on Prescription.
The Centre has shown that group singing has positive benefits for people with enduring mental health issues and people with COPD, as well as researching the role of art galleries and museums in promoting wellbeing, the value of drama workshops for children with communication difficulties and the benefits of dance for people with dementia.
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 undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey
University of Kent
Centre for Health Service Studies - http://www.kent.ac.uk/chss/