Music is 'powerful tool' for social connection, pain, mental health: Study

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Senior man playing acoustic guitar at home

From stress relief and improved mood, to a sharp mind and maintaining connections, music offers abundant health benefits for older adults, according to newly released research from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging.

In a survey on their experiences and feelings about listening to and making music, almost all adult respondents (98%) said that they got some health benefits from music, including stress relief or relaxation (75%), enjoyment (73%) ) Are included. Improved mental health (65%), ability to evoke memories or recall life events (61%) or motivation and energy (60%).

“The Sound of Music” report is based on findings from an online and telephone survey of 2,657 older adults ages 50 to 80 conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago in July and August 2023.

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At a time when public support for the arts is at risk, the survey authors said, healthcare providers, policy makers and community organizations need to be aware of the important role music plays in the lives of older adults.

“Music has the power to bring joy and meaning to life,” Joel Howell, MD, PhD, a UM Medical School professor, said in a statement. “It is woven into the fabric of existence of the entire human race.”

Many adults responding to the survey also said that music helped them feel a spiritual or religious connection (36%), helped keep their mind sharp (31%), and connected them to others (27%). and reduced pain (7%).

Most respondents reported listening to music – 85% said they listen to music at least a few times a week, 80% said they watched a musical performance at least a few times in the past year, and 41% said He attended live musical performances at least a few times. Several times in the last year.

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Many survey participants also reported that they were making music by singing or playing instruments with others. Overall, 8% said they sang in a choir or other organized group in the past year, and 8% said they played an instrument with others at least sometimes.

The survey revealed differences between groups in music listening habits and health effects.

Respondents who said they were in fair or poor health, or who felt isolated, were less likely to listen to music daily. Howell said that with growing concerns about the health effects of loneliness and social isolation, the health benefits of music should not be underestimated.

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“Music’s power to connect us, improve mood and energy, or even reduce pain means it can be a powerful tool,” poll director Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH, MS, said in a statement. Is.”

Sarah Lenz Locke, senior vice president of policy and brain health at AARP and executive director of the Global Council on Brain Health, calls music a “universal language that has the powerful ability to improve well-being.”

“AARP’s own research shows that music can play an important role in healthy aging by improving our mood, fostering social connections, and potentially enriching our brain health,” Locke said in a statement.

The survey, based at the UM Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, was supported by AARP and the university’s academic medical center, Michigan Medicine.

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