Good News For Music Lovers: Attending Concerts Can Be Good For Your Health

Going to Concerts and Hearing Live Music Are Activities That Many People Enjoy. But Are There Also Some Health Benefits That Concertgoers Receive?

Attending concerts is an essential social and cultural activity for many people. In addition to hearing live music, concertgoers are able to experience a sense of community at concerts and become more in-tune with their lives and well-being. 

Most people can attest to the happiness and positive emotions they experience at concerts. But as it turns out, attending concerts might also give music lovers direct, concrete health benefits. 

a speaker surrounded by neon purple lighting
Many studies have found positive correlations between engagement with music and improved health. 

Music and the Brain: A Biological Accident? 

Hard-wired to distinguish music from other noises, the human brain and nervous system respond to rhythm, repetition, tones, and tunes. Although it’s not possible to officially say whether these responses are biologically accidental or intentional, a number of studies indicate that music can boost human health and performance. 

The way that your brain receives and registers sound waves is an intricate and complex process. After sounds arrive at your ear in the form of sound waves, these waves are funneled by the ear canal to the eardrum. After this, the waves strike the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. From here, these vibrations are moved along a chain of bones in the middle ear, and ultimately, chemical neurotransmitters that activate the auditory nerve are released. 

Although all sound waves enter the ear through the same channels, nerve networks in different parts of the brain are responsible for interpreting and decoding the distinct properties of music. While every person’s brain is able to carry out the complex tasks that are required to properly perceive music, a musician’s brain is even more acclimatized to these tasks. 

Through the study of the neurobiology of music, researchers have found that music has significant effects on important aspects of a person’s health, including memory, cardiovascular function, mood, and athletic performance. 

a stethoscope
Listening to music can have a positive effect on a person, both inside and outside of a medical setting. For stroke patients and surgical patients, music can make a particularly strong impact. 

Music’s Impact: Stress, Medicine, and Recovery

Music can do more than just help people express their emotions — music can help people alter them.

In a New York study that examined how music affects surgical patients, forty participants were randomly assigned to two different groups, where they would receive either

  • Ordinary care
  • Or ordinary care in addition to listening to music before, during, and immediately after their operations

Although the patients in both groups had similar blood pressures before surgery, the patients surrounded by silence remained hypertensive throughout the operation, while the blood pressures of the patients who listened to music rapidly lowered and maintained status in the recovery room. Additionally, the patients who listened to music reported that they felt calmer during their operations.

Stroke Recovery

Similar to decreasing stress levels during operations, music has also been linked to stroke relief and recovery. 

In a 2008 study, sixty patients who had recently experienced major strokes received standard stroke care, but a third of these patients were also randomly assigned to listen to recorded music for at least one hour a day. 

Over the course of three months, the patients who had music incorporated into their treatment had their verbal memory improve by 60%, compared with 29% for the other patients in the study who did not receive auditory stimulation. 

While music has been connected to health improvements inside hospitals and medical environments, healthy individuals may also be able to experience health benefits from music — particularly, by attending concerts. 

three musicians performing on stage
Many people love listening to live music and already regularly attend concerts. But are there other health benefits people can receive from these cultural events? 

Is Attending Concerts Good For Your Health? 

Typically, most studies that measure the benefits of listening to music rely on individual listening. So when a group of scientists in Sweden wanted to see if there were any positive health effects that came from attending live concerts, they evaluated the habits of 12,982 people. These scientists recorded people’s:

  • Previous health
  • Social networks
  • Attendance at concerts and plays
  • Education levels
  • Income 
  • Smoking habits
  • And exercise patterns

These researchers found something unexpected in their results — attending cultural events had a powerful effect on mortality. Essentially, people who rarely or never attended concerts or plays had a higher mortality rate during the period of study than people who attended cultural events frequently. 

Because this protection from attending cultural events was not linked to differences in income, social networks, or education, researchers speculate that the benefits concertgoers experienced were an effect of music stimulating specific regions of the brain. Basically, investigators believe that neurological stimulation caused favorable changes in participants’ hormone levels and immune function. 

One of the positive changes in hormone levels could be related to the stress hormone cortisol. In a study by researchers from Imperial College London published in the journal Public Health, researchers found that the cortisol levels of 117 study participants dropped significantly after attending a concert by Eric Whitacre — a composer who performs chorale, wind ensemble and orchestral music. In addition to decreased cortisol levels, the physiologic result of attending concerts can include a decrease in a person’s 

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • And respiratory rate

O2 and Patrick Fagan: Another Study 

Another scientific study commissioned by O2 and Patrick Fagan, an expert in behavioral science and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths University, suggests that frequent concert attendance could extend a person’s life expectancy by nine years

Using psychometric and heart-rate tests, this study found that a participant’s well-being increased by 21% after just 20 minutes of concert attendance, compared to a 10% increase after participating in yoga and 7% after dog walking. Importantly, concert experiences were connected to increases in key markers across the happiness spectrum — including self-worth, closeness to others, and mental stimulation. 

In more general findings, accompanying research demonstrated a positive correlation between regular concert attendance and happiness, contentment, productivity, and self-esteem. 

an orchestra and chorus performing on stage
While exposure to music is impactful in traditional medical and therapeutic settings, music can also be a positive force in people’s general, daily lives. 

For many people, listening to music is an essential part of everyday life. Fortunately, more and more studies are finding positive links between frequent concert attendance and the health and wellness of concertgoers. Stress reduction, pain relief, and an increased sense of community and connection are all reasons to treat yourself to a musical night out. 

Annabeth Collis
Annabeth Collis is a writer from Buffalo, NY.
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