Academic calling for singing on prescription for respiratory illness

23 May 2017

Singing improves the quality of life for people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), according to further research published by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.

There are currently around 1.2 million people in the UK living with COPD, a progressive lung disease that predominantly increases breathlessness and long-term inflammation of the airways.

Over recent years there has been growing evidence that group singing is beneficial for people with chronic respiratory disease in helping to modify breathing patterns, reduce breathlessness, and improve quality of life and social and psychological wellbeing.

The findings of the study, which observed singing groups for people living with COPD in the Lambeth and Southwark boroughs of London, further support the Centre’s previous research carried out in East Kent.

Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre, said: “People with COPD find it difficult to breathe, and are also vulnerable to social isolation, anxiety and depression.

“Regular group singing can help people to focus on their breathing in a positive way, improving management of breathing difficulties. Group singing is also supportive and fun, and people can have an enjoyable time. More and more singing for breathing groups are starting across the country, and the NHS needs to seriously consider the idea of ‘singing on prescription’.”

The launch of the study took place at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Southbank Centre’s Chorus’ Festival in 2015 and COPD singing groups from around the country were invited to sing and find out more about the project.

The project team, led by the Sidney De Hann Research Centre for Arts and Health in collaboration with academics from the University of Kent and the London School of Economics and Political Science, worked with GPs in the Southwark and Lambeth boroughs to recruit people with COPD to four singing groups, then carefully monitored the groups over the period of a year. The results concluded that regular singing has a positive impact on people with the serious and incurable lung condition.


Singing for breathing group in action

Stephen continued: “We are delighted that our community singing group in Lambeth and Southwark for people living with COPD has been so successful. This builds on our previous work in Kent, which suggested that singing is beneficial to this group, not only for breathing but also in relation to general physical, psychological and social wellbeing. 

“We are currently working with Medway Community Healthcare in setting up further singing for better breathing groups.”

The Singing for Better Breathing: Findings of the Lambeth and Southwark Singing and COPD Project was supported by the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups for Southwark and Lambeth and funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity.

The final report will be officially launched at an event at the Royal Festival Hall Southbank Centre, London on 6th June between 1-3pm, where singing for breathing groups across the UK will be in attendance. The report is live on the Sidney De Haan Research Centre's for Arts and Health webpages on the University website. 

For more information about the launch please contact Di White at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, email or call 01303 220870.

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 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 96% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2014/15 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:16:00