Have you ever felt down, and your first instinct was to listen to your favourite music to cheer yourself up? While listening to music alone can improve your mood, singing songs with others improves your overall health.
According to a study named “Sing With Us”, mentioned in an international newspaper, singing as part of a choir or group positively impacts the health of human beings.
The study features 193 participants, which includes cancer patients, carers, and oncologists, but their main focus as part of the study is to come together and sing for the joy and excitement that it brings.
The study was carried out from 2016 until 2018, during which the choir gathered in a London church on Wednesdays to sing together, and after every rehearsal, some participants would provide saliva samples to researchers examining whether singing affected their health and mood, which it did, but in a positive way.
The “Sing With Us” study is one of many that demonstrate the advantages of group singing for both physical and mental health. “Sing With Us” found that participating in choirs led to lower levels of stress hormones and higher levels of cytokines, which are proteins that help the body fight life-threatening illnesses.
Other research has linked singing to lowered anxiety generally, improved lung capacity, and a reduction in postpartum depression. It has also been linked to memory stimulation for dementia sufferers and an improvement in their ability to remember.
Additionally, Stanley Thurston, the artistic director of the Heritage Signature Chorale in Washington, DC, which he founded to preserve African American choral music, stated that singing ensembles like choirs support the “total growth of the human being.”
Despite the fact that many choirs in the United States are based in churches, many others — like Heritage — are community-based.
Choirs, like large families, promote social bonding, trust, cooperation, and cohesion. However, singing has been linked to the spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic. Although some choirs have scaled back COVID-19 protocols, singers still need to monitor their health and stay home with symptoms.
In the US, choir singing has not fully regained its pre-pandemic popularity, but in 2019, 54 million Americans sang in choirs. They were found to be more optimistic, more likely to vote, less lonely, and more likely to contribute positively to their communities.
“The social environment of choirs enhances the positive effects of singing,” says Katey Warran, a research fellow in social science at University College London.
Joining a singing group is about developing “meaningful” relationships, but Warran also emphasises the physiological benefits of singing. For instance, the choir that involved cancer patients was not a support group but rather a group activity that can boost self-esteem and self-efficacy and lead to “more stable increases in well-being,” according to Warran.
What if, however, you doubt your singing ability? Suzi Zumpe, the creative director of ENO Breathe, a collaboration between the English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, claims that if you can breathe and make sound, you can sing and enjoy its benefits.
The programme was created in collaboration with Imperial College London’s respiratory and medical experts, and it focuses on reducing anxiety and breathlessness in those who have an extended COVID-19.
Meanwhile, since COVID-19 shut down performances at Heritage Signature Choir, about half of the choir and half of the audience have come back, according to Thurston.
He continues by recalling a woman who showed up at a recent rehearsal shortly after spending time in the hospital and said the choir was helpful for her recovery. For many, he adds, there was no other option but to continue.
“It affects the way you feel about being alive,” Thurston says. “It’s an expression of, ‘Yes, I am here. This feeds my soul.'”