Western Cape University Choir, South Africa © Nolte Photography

13 health (physical, mental, and social) benefits of choir singing

Choral singing is good for you, your physical and mental health, and social life

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According to an article by the University of Oxford, although the benefits of singing in a choir are particularly challenging to research scientifically since it’s very hard to find a suitable “control” activity - “a number of recent developments have helped us to understand how group singing can improve physical and mental health, as well as promote social bonding.”

In this article, we gathered a list of 13 main physical, mental, and social positive effects choristers enjoy according to research:

Benefits of choral singing: physical health

1. Improving breathing, posture, and muscle tension
According to an article by the University of Oxford, singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture, and muscle tension.
See the article

2. Regulating the heart rate
Researchers have found that choristers not only synchronize their voices when singing together but also their heartbeats. The reason for their heart rates to beat in unison is because the speed of beating accelerates in relation to the speed of their breathing. In the study, heart rates are directly affected by the melody of the music, and the pulses of those tested rose and fell at the same time when they sung in a group.
See the study.

3. Working as an effective pain killer
Studies show that listening to and participating in music seems to be effective in pain relief, probably due to the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin (a natural painkiller and the same agent responsible for the “high” experienced after intense exercise).
See the study.

4. Sustaining a healthy immune system
Research has shown that singing in a choir reduces the stress hormone cortisol and boosts the Immunoglobin A antibody: this evidence suggests that regular musical and singing habits can play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
See the study.

5. Improving symptoms of chronic diseases
In 2012, Cardiff University researchers uncovered evidence that lung cancer patients who engaged in choral singing had greater expiratory capacity than people who did not.
At the same time, when music professor Brenville Hancox formed a choir for people with Parkinson’s Disease, participants in the choir felt their voices becoming strengthened over time.
It has been suggested that deep breathing and the extended use of the vocal cords could be the reason for this improvement.
See the study.

6. Improving the overall status of our physical health
Singing in a choir entails being part of a group of people with a common interest and it encourages rapid social bonding.
Evidence clearly suggests that our social connections play a vital role in preserving both our mental and physical health.
A satisfying social life or lack thereof influences our overall sense of wellbeing and the status of our mental health has direct physical consequences in our bodies.
In this way, it’s possible that singing can improve health by expanding our social group.

Benefits of choral singing: mental health

7. Improving memory (and symptoms of dementia too!)
Since learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and requires the use of memory, it has been shown that singing can improve our mental agility and even help those suffering from dementia.
See the study.

8. Reducing stress levels and depression
Increasing evidence has been pointing out the mental health benefits of singing. One study lasting for a year involving participants who had been diagnosed with depression found that some of them no longer met that diagnosis following their involvement with a choir.
See the article.

9. Being therapeutic
It is not surprising that music has been used throughout history and in numerous cultures during healing rituals. Even today, it is still used as a therapy in our own culture (for example, for the relief of mental illness, breathing conditions, language impairment, etcetera). The fact that basically everyone has the physical ability to sing makes it one of the most accessible forms of music-making, too.
See the article

10. Improving our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing
Singing has also been shown to improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Studies have found that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music, or even after chatting about positive life events.
Improved mood probably comes in part directly from the release of positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. In fact, the satisfaction of performing together, even without an audience, is likely to be associated with activation of the brain’s reward system, including the dopamine pathway, which keeps people coming back for more.
It is also likely to be influenced by changes in our sense of social closeness with others.

Benefits of choral singing: social bonding

11. Broadening social networks
Studies have also shown that community singing leads people to bond with larger groups - a habit that helps people broaden their social networks.
See the study.

12. Deepening a sense of togetherness, community, and belonging
Even if we don’t always necessarily talk to everyone in our choir, we might experience a general feeling of being connected with the group, leading to our increased sense of community and belonging.
Research led by psychologist Nick Stewart of Bath University indicates that people who sing in a choir enjoy a greater feeling of togetherness and sense of being part of a collective endeavor than people involved in other social activities.”
See the study.

Furthermore, as an article by the University of Oxford explains, being part of a cohesive group has been essential for survival throughout our evolutionary history. At the same time, music seems to have always been a vehicle to this essential and life-saving group forming. More specifically, the fact that the oldest bone flute ever found is 40,000 years old tells us that music has been around for at least this long. Moreover, music is also present in all human cultures around the world and it often occurs in social settings. These characteristics suggest that music might be an evolved behavior for creating community cohesion.
See the article

13. Improving our overall feeling of social well-being
A study led by psychologist Nick Stewart of Bath University found that participants in choral singing reported a higher rate of social well-being than solo singers.
See the study.

And here you go: 13 different physical, mental, and social benefits of singing in a choir! Choral singing provides an inclusive and cost-effective means of improving our physical and mental health, as well as enhancing our sense of social well-being.

You see, singing in a choir is a fantastic thing, and singing together with other choirs can still multiply this effect a lot.

Check out our list of upcoming choir events and find your favorite spot for your next choral gathering! 

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