In December 2007, Dr. Claudius Conrad conducted a test on the healing effects of music. He made post-operative critical care patients listen to Mozart piano sonatas and found a 50% increase in pituitary growth hormone, which he asserted curbs inflammation and created a sedative effect. On top of that, the patients experienced a 20% drop in the stress hormones epinephrine and interleukin-6, and a reduced need for pain medication (Conrad et al., 2007).
Given positive impacts on health of people of all ages, listening to music can be the new medicine. In fact, it promotes healing, and helps to ease the body and mind (Aldridge, 1989). Music can influence physical and emotional health, thus improving quality of life (Murrock & Higgins, 2009). Physical health is an essential part of the overall well-being of a person. Physical health refers to the conditions associated with the body, as differentiated from the mind, which describes a person ability to perform his or her daily activities without any difficulty. Examples of physical health include fitness, cardiovascular condition, agility, endurance, and muscular strength. On the other hand, emotional health includes the ability to express all emotions suitably, allowing a person to perform effectively within society. Emotional health is the experience of healthy self-esteem, self-respect and resilience. In addition, emotional health means embracing the emotion that develops in any instance, such as anger, jealousy, sadness, grief, and joy, and handling in healthy proactive ways.
Based on observations, many medical experts have associated music with humans’ general health and well-being. It was found that music is an effective therapy for pain, medicine for the heart, fasten post-stroke recovery, increases immunity, enhances learning and intelligence quotient, improves memory performance, as well as concentration. Overall, music does have positive impacts on humans’ physical and emotional health, thus leading to music therapy gradually being recognized.
How Music Aids Exercise
Music can be used to aid exercise as it can be a real boost, giving people the extra push when the going gets tough. Many people prefer listening to music when they work out. However, music does not just help make physical activity more enjoyable, but it certainly enhances physical performance. According to Murrock and Higgins (2009), the theory of Music, Mood and Movement (MMM), which integrates both psychological and physiological reactions of music, helps increase the rate of physical activity and boost health. When individuals perform physical activity, they burn calories thus helping them prevent excess weight gain or maintain weight loss. Moreover, exercising while listening to music can enhance mood, and positive mood changes might influence individuals’ intention to continue exercising.
With regards to the MMM, enjoyment is also an important factor affecting mood alteration. Enjoyment of physical activity has correlation with decreased perceived effort and improved feeling states, and enjoyment has been recognized as a mediator between physical activity and positive mood changes (Murrock & Higgins, 2009). Hence, promoting enjoyment can help increase physical activity as it is a reinforcement of the behaviour. Murrock and Higgins (2009) noted that during physical activity, perceptions of discomfort and exertion occur through the peripheral cues of muscle irritation and exhaustion and through central cues of changes in heart rates, respiratory rate and oxygen consumption mediated by the autonomic nervous system. By diverting an individual’s perception of exertion, music allows them to reduce the peripheral and central cues of discomfort.
Furthermore, exercising to music can improve performance by capturing an individual’s interest and combining the physical activity with positive experiences. Moreover, no matter what an individual’s fitness level, the relationship between rhythm and movement benefits skill acquisition and improved performance. For instance, a study by Edworthy and Waring (2006) showed significant results and interactions based on running speed and heart rate across the different music tempo and loudness levels. They tested a total of 30 participants conducting five 10-minute exercise sessions on the treadmill, in the presence of either fast/loud, fast/quiet, slow/loud, slow/quiet or no music.
Effects of Music Tempo and Loudness on Physiological and Psychological Responses (Means and Standard Deviations) to Treadmill Exercise at 5 and 10 Minutes
Based on the table above, it was observed that the participants had more positive effect on their heart rate, speed and feeling during the music condition, as compared to the ‘no music’ condition. Nevertheless, no significant differences for perceived exertion were found across conditions.
Therefore, these results show that fast, loud music might be played to improve optimal exercising. In general, exercising to music can increase enjoyment, link exercising with positive experiences, improve regularity, intensity, duration, and enhance the initiation and maintenance of physical activity leading to the improved health results of weight.
Relationship Between Music and Blood Pressure
Besides helping individuals exercise better, listening to music also has effects on blood pressure. Individuals would experience change in mood and activity level when they listen to different types of music. For instance, listening to classical music can relax people’s minds. Kennelly and Brien-Elliott (2001) stated that by listening and feeling vibrations from soothing music, the heart moves into a regular flow that triggers other positive physical effects, such as slow breathing, decreased stress, and more relaxed brainwave patterns.
Research by Vaajoki et al (2011) showed that music listening resulted in a significantly lower blood pressure. They conducted a test on one music group and non-music group respectively to measure each patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate before and after intervention between the operation day and the second postoperative day. Music was played in the morning, midday and evening, and the patients who were in the music group were given their own choice of music out of 2000 songs, including soul, pop, dance, blues, and classical music. As a result, it was indicated that blood pressure and heart rate levels were lower in the music group than in the non-music group.
Overall, it is proven that music listening is a positive experience, and it can help reduce blood pressure. Hence, it is advisable to listen to soothing music for at least 30 minutes everyday, especially when feeling stress or anxiety.
How Music Affects Depression Level
Depression is a psychological illness that causes one to loss interest in life and activities that he or she once enjoys. Depression can reach people of any age and it is becoming a major concern among elderlies as they are not expressive and many are in disbelief that depression can be cured (Chan et al, 2009, p. 285). Some of them might even have thoughts of suicide as they consider life to be meaningless.
Treatment for elderly with depression is becoming a rising concern as medication can be hard to administer and the intake of it is hard to monitor. Hence, music therapy being used as a treatment is being suggested. Research has shown that a person’s anxiety level and the intake of sedative drugs were reduced through listening to music (The Joanna Briggs Institute, 2011, p. 101).
However, different factors of the music must be taken into consideration before deciding which to use. It is recommended by Nilsson (2008) that the type of music used should be between 60-80 beats per minute, non-lyrical and make up of mainly string ensemble (p. 786).
The table shows a research conducted by Chan. et al (2009) on how music affects both the physical and emotional health. It can be seen clearly in the table that the depression score of the participants decreased gradually throughout the four weeks of the experiment. Therefore this shows that if the right music therapy is being used consistently, patients with depression can gradually get better.
How Music Alters Mood
Human’s mood can be classified into two broad categories; good and bad mood. When one is in a good mood, he or she is believed to be feeling happy, joyous or in a celebratory feeling whereas if one is in a bad mood, he or she would be either angry or sad. Basically, a person’s mood is closely linked to their emotions. One’s mood can be easily affected by the music he or she listened to.
Music has got many different genres. Therefore, different genres of music would have a different effect on individual’s mood as people relate differently to music they hear. For instance, when one is feeling sad, listening to ballads would make him or her feels worse whereas if one listens to music which are more upbeat in rhythm, chances of them cheering up would be higher. According to Rana et al (2011), their research shows a clear relationship between time spent on listening to music and happiness index of people (p. 48).
Furthermore, one does not have to necessarily be in a particular emotion to be affected by the music being played or heard. According to M. F. Chan Et Al (2009), their research shows positive results between the hearer’s emotions and music played (p. 286). Music is translated through its rhythm, instrumental and lyrics. When lyrics are well-written, it can trigger one’s emotion as he or she is able to relate the lyrics to either a present or past real life situation. When one hears the lyrics, it brings back happy or sad memories and this would have a momentary effect on his or her mood. Therefore, the choice of music to listen to is important is helping one alters his or her mood.
Negative Impacts of Music on Emotional Well-Being
In 1999, two American students went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and injuring 24 others. This news caused the media to associate the students’ behaviour with listening to Marilyn Manson’s music. Manson’s music, also referred to as industrial music, is centred around heavily distorted, very low pitched guitars, and harsh vocals. Hence, in spite of the physical and emotional health benefits music brings to individuals, music also has its disadvantages.
According to Baker and Bor (2008), the large amount of time teenagers are exposed to a wide range of media, including music and music videos, and how it affects their emotional well-being, has been a major concern. Music permits people to escape temporarily from thoughts and feelings or releasing accumulated emotions, anxiety, energy, and anger. Not only has emotional music, or also known as ’emo’ music, been the subject of scrutiny by the media, but heavy metal, rap music, and country music have also been blamed for antisocial behaviours such as theft, drug use, violence, and promiscuity. Heavy metal music, classified as ‘anticonformists’, results in teenagers having lower self-esteem, lacking a stable sense of identity, and feeling disconnected, rejected, or misunderstood by others. A study by Anderson and Carnagey (2003) showed that when students listened to violent songs, they felt more hostile, resulting in them having an increase in aggressive thoughts, as compared to those who heard similar but non-violent songs. Overall, music can be a negative influence on youths today.