Although many of us like to escape the stress of daily life by listening to or playing music, it turns out it can do more than just keep us entertained. Music therapy is widely used by medical professionals and may benefit health and wellbeing in a surprising number of ways.
Improving our mood
Our moods and behavior can be affected by the kind of music we listen to, no matter what our age. A study by the University of California found that playing music in an assisted living facility may have led to a reduction in agitation and depression among the elderly residents, while in The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, babies who received music therapy were less irritable and cried less when compared with infants who did not listen to music.
Listening to your favorite music may also be good for your cardiovascular system. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore suggest that emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. When the participants of the study listened to music that made them happy, the inner lining of their blood vessels expanded to increase blood flow and support heart health.
It has been reported that classical, vocal and orchestral music in particular may have more beneficial effects on cardiovascular health than other kinds of music.
Music can be a pleasant diversion and has been used to help manage the pain associated with surgery, physical rehab, childbirth, cancer, burn treatment, and other conditions. A study from the University of Utah Pain Research Center found that engaging in music listening may reduce pain, depending on the person. They found that people who were most anxious about pain got the most benefit, probably because anxiety-prone people tend to be easily absorbed in their thoughts and may get caught up in the music more easily.
Music may even help boost your immunity, with studies suggesting that music increases many of the body's ‘fighter’ cells that help protect the body, especially in older people .
So next time you plug in the iPod or sing in the shower, consider the health benefits you may be receiving from your favorite tunes.
What type of music helps you feel better? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below.
 Koyama, M., et al., Recreational music-making modulates immunological responses and mood states in older adults. J Med Dent Sci, 2009. 56(2): pp. 79-90.