VIENNA, Austria — Listening to music reduced stress during the pandemic, according to new research. The study of 711 people found music also improved mood, adding to evidence that our favorite tunes are a great antidote for anxiety.
“Listening to music in daily life was significantly associated with lower levels of stress during the COVID-19 lockdown period,” study authors from the University of Vienna say in a media release.
“Music listening was also significantly associated with improved mood, particularly for those with elevated chronic stress during the pandemic.”
The findings in JAMA Network Open are based on an analysis of adults between 24 and 36 years-old in Austria and Italy. An app on their smartphone prompted them to report activities five times a day for a week between April 1st and May 8th, 2020.
Participants provided data on experiences in real time in their natural environment while strict lockdown measures were in place. Perceptions of momentary stress and mood were measured using app-based questionnaires with scores ranging from zero to 100.
The participants provided a total of 19,641 data points, including 4,677 music listening reports. The analysis linked the latter to lowering stress by an average of eight percent, and boosting mood by 90 percent.
“The present findings suggest music listening may be a means to modulate stress and mood during psychologically demanding periods,” the researchers say, according to a statement from SWNS.
“Individuals experiencing heightened momentary and/or chronic stress because of the challenges brought about by Covid-19 pandemic–related restrictions might consider music as an easily accessible tool for the management of stress and mood in daily life.”
Different songs affect the body in different ways
Previous research has shown music can have a profound effect on both our emotions and the body. Faster songs can make people feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat ones can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. Meanwhile, researchers say a slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Listening to music has been found to be effective for relaxation and stress management.
“Music listening qualifies as an easily accessible coping strategy during times of a pandemic,” the team tells SWNS. “Music has the capacity to modulate cognitive, affective, and neurobiological processes.”
“Moreover, historical evidence suggests that, particularly in times of crisis and disasters, individuals across cultures turn to music to lift their mood and to increase feelings of social connectedness.”
The pandemic changed the everyday life of many individuals worldwide, with far-reaching lockdown measures implemented across the world. They included strict social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
“The resulting social and economic disruption was associated with stress, worries and mental health problems among the general population,” study authors explain. “This disruption was aggravated by the fact that many leisure activities that were previously pursued to regulate stress and mood – such as meeting friends and attending cultural events – were banned.”
“Prolonged levels of chronic stress and impaired mood have been shown to be major risk factors for mental and somatic disorders, specifically in the context of the
Music benefited those under the most stress
Surprisingly, individuals reporting higher levels of chronic stress experienced the most benefit associated with music listening in terms of improved mood and energetic arousal. Previous studies suggested that the benefits associated with music might be limited under heightened stress.
“Happy music, in particular, was associated with lower stress levels and improved mood across time and across individuals,” researchers tell SWNS. “Furthermore, individuals reporting higher chronic stress levels reported improved mood after music listening.”
It corroborates and extends previous research that has highlighted the health benefits associated with music and its value in coping with psychological distress during lockdown.
“The present study provides unique evidence from a real-life and real-time perspective on the prospective associations between deliberate music listening and perceptions of stress and mood during lockdown among a large sample of individuals from the general population,” the team concludes.
“In this regard, our findings indicate that music listening in daily life might regulate levels of stress and energetic arousal toward an optimal state while it improves mood valence and calmness.”
“Our findings can further promote the development of individualized and tailored interventions that deliver music to foster resilience in daily life during psychologically demanding periods.”
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.