Singing and music programs have been found to benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers (Bannan 2008); people with Parkinson’s disease (Tomaino n.d.); and dementia (Bamford & Clift 2007; Gotell, Brown & Ekman 2002; Lesta & Petocz 2006), as well as socially withdrawn and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people (Cayton 2007). In medicine, participatory arts programs including choirs, are known to improve mental health (Cohen 2006), reduce the need for doctor visits (Cohen, 2006) and medication (Cohen 2006; Hodges 2000; Kenny & Faunce 2004), and to reduce recovery time (Hodges, 2000). The use of music and singing have been shown to assist cognitive function in patients who have been affected by multiple sclerosis (Thaut et al. 2008), stroke, brain tumour or trauma through injury or disease (Sacks 1998; Schlaug, Marchina & Norton 2008).
Clift and Hancox (2001)
A British study on singing and health was conducted by Clift and Hancox (2001), and involved a qualitative pilot study followed by a quantitative survey based on the themes that emerged from the pilot study. The quantitative study investigated the perceived benefits of singing from the perspective of the singers. It was found that the majority of
singers perceived that singing benefited them socially, emotionally physically and spiritually. They believed singing improved their breathing and lung function, improved their mood and helped reduce stress
Clift et al. 2008
A further, cross-national study was later undertaken, which supported the findings of the 2001 study. Singers in this study self-reported benefits to their physical and mental health from choir singing. The 2008 study also gathered qualitative data and at present, only a preliminary analysis of a small amount of this data is available. This analysis shows that singers perceived: lowered stress levels; positive feelings; a sense of achievement; social benefits; and improvements in physical health as a result of their choir involvement
Those in authority have often censored or banned music because of its power.
Langston 2005b/O’Connor 2009
Choirs are beneficial to the community because they are an important factor in creating social capital and wellbeing in communities. They foster community connection, social bonds and fellowship and bring people of similar interests and backgrounds together (Langston 2005b). A further study by O’Connor (2009) confirmed Langston’s findings about building social capital through community singing, which she found also led to public health benefits for individuals and communities. O’Connor’s study suggested that community singing also creates bonds and breaks down barriers between people of varied backgrounds, ages and experiences.
Singing with others was found to have a strong social function and singers felt valued as part of a group (Bailey 2002; Bailey & Davidson 2001; 2003b; 2005; Durrant & Himonides 1998; O'Connor 2009; Rickwood 1997; Zanini & Leao 2006). Singing helped the singers to express emotions (Durrant & Himonides 1998; Zanini & Leao 2006). Therefore, people felt they benefited socially and emotionally from singing with others (Bailey 2002; Bailey & Davidson 2001; 2003b; 2007; Durrant & Himonides 1998; Rickwood 1997; Zanini & Leao 2006) as well as through improving their musical skills (Durrant & Himonides 1998). Singers found rehearsals exhilarating, uplifting and relaxing, (Bailey 2002; Bailey & Davidson 2001; 2003b; 2007; Durrant & Himonides 1998; O'Connor 2009; Rickwood 1997; Zanini & Leao 2006) and enjoyed performing (Bailey 2002; Bailey & Davidson 2001; 2003b; Durrant & Himonides 1998). Self-confidence and self-esteem were enhanced through being a part of the choir (Bailey 2002; Bailey & Davidson 2001; Zanini & Leao 2006).
Bailey & Davidson
Singers participating in an amateur choir, regardless of the skill level or training of the singers and the leader, had therapeutic outcomes similar to that of clinical therapy (Bailey, 2002; Bailey & Davidson, 2001, 2003a). They also found that skills and adaptive behaviours learned in the choir transferred to other areas of life outside the choir thereby enhancing the broader daily lives of these men (Bailey & Davidson, 2001, 2003a).