Effect of Choir Music on Stress Levels, Immune System and Emotions

This study attempted to investigate whether choir music has any effect on antibodies like secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA), which are the body’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses and are important indicators of a person’s immune system health. The study also looked at choir music’s effect on stress hormones like cortisol. The study further evaluated the emotional well-being of singers as well as listeners of choir music. This study found that singing in a choir leads to a decrease in negative mood and an increase in the positive mood of the singer. However, listening to choir music leads to an increase in negative mood. It was also found that singing in a choir increases the levels of S-IgA, thereby increasing the immune system of a person. It had no effect on the level of cortisol. In contrast, listening to choir music led to a decrease in the levels of cortisol, but had no effect on the levels of S-IgA.

It is a well-known fact that music induces strong emotional responses in humans and also possesses healing powers. It is seen from literature that music tends to have a harmonizing effect on the autonomic nervous system that governs many of the mental and organ functions in the body. The autonomic nervous system is also said to affect the functions of the immune system of an individual. S-IgA antibodies are a key part of the body’s defense against bacteria and viruses and are important indicators of an individual’s immune competence. The autonomic nervous system affects the levels of the S-IgA antibodies. The levels of S-IgA are found to be raised when a person is relaxed and less stressed. This study therefore attempted to evaluate the effect of choir singing and listening on the immune status and emotional well-being of an individual.

* For this study, 23 women and 8 men, aged between 29 and 74 years, were selected from an amateur choir.
* They were questioned about the status of their health, especially about their respiratory and cardiovascular fitness.
* The participants were subjected to two different experiments. In the first experiment, they sang in a choir. An hour before and after singing, their saliva was sampled to estimate the levels of S-IgA and cortisol. They were also questioned about their emotional states before and after singing.
* The second experiment was performed one week after the first experiment. The participants were asked to listen to choir music attentively, as if they were engaged in singing it. This was followed by a collection of their saliva samples and an assessment of their emotional states before and after listening to the music.

Key findings
* The results of this study show that singing in a choir leads to a positive emotional status.
* It also leads to an increase in the secretion of S-IgA, but has no effect on the levels of cortisol.
* On the other hand, passive listening to choir music leads to a decrease in the levels of the helpful stress hormone cortisol. It also increases negative moods.
* Listening to music did not show any significant effect on the levels of S-IgA.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors of this study suggest further studies with different genres of music. They also add that while this study evaluated the effects of choir singing, further studies should investigate the effect of solo singing, too. Furthermore, according to the authors, singing is a more physically active intervention than passive listening, and this activity may have led to the increase in S-IgA. This effect will have to be studied further in future studies.

This study shows that singing in a choir leads to an increase in positive moods as well as in the levels of S-IgA. This is in agreement with previous evidence and beliefs that singing leads to good health and well-being.  Listening to choir music, on the other hand, reduces the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and increases negative mood. According to the authors of this study, listening to music may evoke negative emotions like sadness or grief. These feelings would be perceived as relaxing by the body, thereby reducing the levels of stress hormones; but would increase the negative moods as well. Such effects have been observed in other primates too.

For More Information:
Effects of Choir Singing or Listening on Secretory Immunoglobulin A, Cortisol, and Emotional State
Publication Journal: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, December 2004
By Gunter Kreutz; Stephan Bongard; Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt, Germany

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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