Many reports have been produced regarding our health and wellbeing and most reveal the obvious: too many pills, too much stress, and too little employment, food, housing, education, or security. With evidence showing positive results from non-invasive, non-chemical, community-based, and artistically-driven medical remedies, research in science and health supports musicking as a means of improving the quality of our lives.
From research in gamma brain waves and dopamine pathways to studies in bouncing balls and iPod programs, musicking has been shown to produce positive results with not only gait, speech, and memory issues, but also with more serious medical ailments including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and fibromyalgia syndrome. Likewise, studies in addiction and mental health have shown that developing social connections through community involvement, group participation, and many other musicking opportunities can have a profound effect on an individual’s ability to manage relationships in today’s society.
Governments are recognizing the benefits of communal creative activity. The United Kingdom, for example, has entered a phase of Social Prescribing recommending that doctors promote arts solutions for ailments such as dementia, psychosis, lung conditions, and mental health issues. Matt Hancock, British Health Secretary, recently spoke about the initiative: “We’ve been fostering a culture that’s popping pills and Prozac, when what we should be doing is more prevention and perspiration. […] Social prescribing can help us combat over-medicalising people.” Recommendations include singing lessons, dance lessons, or simply listening to preferred music playlists.
The British government in 2018 appointed a Minister of Loneliness to address social and health issues caused by social isolation. Similar to stress, extended feelings of loneliness can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic inflammation, and even dementia. Creating programs that promote individual connection through communal activity, including many musicking opportunities, is one of their mandates.
Doctors in Montreal, Canada, are prescribing free (government-funded) tours of Quebec’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to address mental health issues. Studies have shown that visits to museums can increase levels of serotonin, a chemical released in the brain that mitigates depression.
The natural release of desirable brain chemicals through prescribed activity is a growing field in music therapy. Dopamine, a “happiness” neurotransmitter, is the chemical released in the brain that is most often associated with pleasure and reward-motivated behaviour, and it is also involved with other functions such as motor control and hormone release. Altered levels of dopamine have been linked to mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, as well as other medical conditions, such as restless legs syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have shown that when subjects are exposed to music they enjoy, levels of dopamine in the brain can increase by nine percent.
Musicking can provide non-invasive, non-chemical, community-based, and artistically-driven medical remedies. Musicking is healthy.