Music as medicine:Can music be used to treat specific health problems?
New research published on Bottom Line Health by Suzanne B. Hanser (Berklee College of Music) confirms that it helps fight high blood pressure, insomnia and pain.
A growing body of research suggests that music can affect key areas of the brain that help stabilize specific physiological functions necessary to maintain a state of healthy operation. Exactly which type of music to use is down to subjective tastes but the medical conditions can be improved by listening to suitable music
High blood pressure
The hypothalamus controls the autonomic nervous system, which stabilizes our breathing and our heartbeat. It also is linked to emotional activity.
How music helps: The appropriate music can activate happy past memories or images – the hypothalamus then helps slow the heart and respiration rate and subsequently lowers blood pressure.
Scientific evidence: The British Journal of Health Psychology published results from a study in which 75 adults performed a taxing three-minute math problem. Afterward they were made to listen to silence, classical, jazz, or pop music. Those who heard classical music had substantially lower systolic (top number) blood pressure levels than those who heard no music at all. Blood pressure did not significantly improve in people who listened to the music from the other genres.
The average time it takes for a healthy adult to fall asleep is 30 minutes, adults aged 50 and older often have more trouble falling, and staying asleep.
How music helps: Tranquil, relaxing music reduces the amount of the stress-related neurotransmitter noradrenalin that circulates in the bloodstream, having a sedative effect.
Scientific evidence: A study was conducted at Tzu-Chi General Hospital in Taiwan with sixty people aged 60 to 83 that all suffered sleeping difficulties. The study lasted three weeks and researchers reported a 35% improvement in length of sleep, sleep quality, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction in those subjects who listened to soft, slow piano music at night. Piano versions of popular “oldies,” New Age, harp, classical and slow jazz proved to be the most effective types of music used in the study.
How music helps: While music can not eradicate pain it can help alleviate it by creating a secondary stimulus that diverts attention away from the discomfort.
Scientific evidence: The Journal of Advanced Nursing published results from a 14 day study in which 66 older adults with osteoarthritis pain sat quietly for 20 minutes daily, while another group listened to music. Those who listened to music reported a significant decrease in pain.
How does music mend a broken heart?
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that people prefer certain music based on recent experiences. For example, a person who just had a frustrating exchange with someone was more likely to choose angry music. Likewise, those with a broken heart chose sad music. And, according to the research, in some cases the brokenhearted say they would prefer to hear a weepy breakup tune rather than cry on the shoulder of an empathetic friend.
New research suggest an aesthetic experience that reflects a person’s mood can help calm emotional turmoil. Thus, sad music or books may help someone get through heartbreak.
The sadness and grief following a broken relationship is part of the human condition — a time when we look for a surrogate to replace the lost personal bond.
Prior research has reported that individuals in a negative mood prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences (cheerful music, or comedies) to counter their negative feelings.
Researchers discovered a preference for sad music was significantly higher when an individual had experienced an interpersonal loss (losing a personal relationship) versus an impersonal loss (losing a competition).
Investigators say the study shows that interpersonal relationships influence a preference for aesthetic experiences.
That is, individuals seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships.