Being a huge fan of all forms of music, try as I might, I cannot imagine a world without it. Even during the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, we will remember that while the virus may have kept us separated, it was music that brought us together. From Italians serenading one another from their balconies to apartment dwellers in New York City singing to the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” music is universal and no human culture exists without it.   

Even in the worst of times, music is a medium with a special ability bringing people together in peace and harmony. Depending on music’s melodic form, its magical power makes us feel a wide range of strong emotions such as happiness, sorrow, joy, or melancholy.

Over the years, studies have also shown music’s power to transform our health.  Music often sets the tone for our mood and when we listen to music it appears to have a positive impactful way of boosting our health and well-being.  Something we each could use during the trying times of COVID-19.

Here are several examples of research-backed evidence showing how the act of listening to music plays a key role in our health, especially during a global pandemic:

It’s a heart healthy way to lower blood pressure

Next time you feel your blood pressure rising, put on some classical music.  Researchers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany conducted a study exposing participants to three different forms of music – music composed by W.A. Mozart, music composed by J. Strauss Jr. or music composed by the Swedish pop band ABBA.  Discovered were those listening to classical music either by Mozart or Strauss had notably lower rates of their blood pressure and heart rate than those listening the group ABBA.   Another effect noted was that concentrations of the stress hormone of cortisol dropped more so in men than women after hearing the melodic sounds of Mozart and Strauss.  

It elevates mood by reducing stress and anxiety

Both listening and performing music can have a calming effect on people.  In studies with adult choir singers, singing the same piece of music tended to synch their breathing and heart rates, producing a group-wide calming effect. 

Another study showed that when 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music – either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist – increased the infants capacity to feed, sleep, and self-regulate plus enhanced their vital signs along with providing opportunities for bonding with their parents. 

It helps manage pain

A unique ability of music is helping with pain management.  A 2013 study of sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain, was randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period.  When compared to another group who did not listen to music, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms. 

A 2015 study in the Lancet involving almost 7,000 patients found that listening to music before, during, or after a surgical procedure is beneficial to patients by significantly reducing pain and anxiety and decreasing the need for pain medication.

It supports healthy immune functioning

Researchers from Sussex University and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany found music’s ability to aid patients’ recovery while in the hospital.  The study looked at 300 people asking them to listen to 50 minutes of happy, joyful dance music or to a random collection of tones.  They found that levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, decreased significantly in those listening to the dance music compared to the control group.  In addition, the levels of antibody immunoglobin A, the immune system’s first line of defense, was increased.

It’s a motivator to move

There’s a reason so many of us like to listen to music while breaking a sweat.  It inspires us to not only work out but to work out for a longer period of time.

Researchers in the United Kingdom had 30 participants listen to either motivational synchronized music, non-motivational synchronized music, or no music while they walked on a treadmill.  Participants listening to music (motivational or non) worked out for a longer time than those who did not listen to music.  The motivational music listening participants also stated they felt better during their workout than the other two music forms.

Other studies have shown that exercisers who listen to music with a fast beat and synchronous with their movement, used up oxygen more efficiently than when the music played at a slower, unsynchronized tempo. 

In conclusion

Listening to music has always had tremendous power in how it affects our lives including our health.  It has the unique capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – what in the world would we do without it. 

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.