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The Mental-Health Benefits of Singing in a Choir

A body of research finds singing in a group boosts mood, outlook, and health.

Key points

  • A body of research shows that choir singing promotes wellness.
  • Choir singers report better relationships, a higher quality of life, and greater wellness than non-singers.
  • A study of cancer caregivers and patients found choir singing reduced anxiety and boosted the immune system.
highwaystarz/Adobe Stock
highwaystarz/Adobe Stock

Singing is nearly ubiquitous in American society. From church choirs to America’s Got Talent, people love hearing voices singing in unison. Nearly 54 million Americans – including one in six adults – participate in choral groups, according to research funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

It turns out, that’s a good thing because singing with a group provides a wide range of mental-health benefits. Adult singers report that participation in choral groups helps them feel less lonely. Choir singers are also less likely to experience symptoms of depression compared to the general population. And they are more likely to report they are content with their relationships compared to the general public.

Choral singers report having stronger relationships, spending more time with friends, and making a bigger effort to get to know others in their communities compared to the general public. Further, nearly three-quarters of singers say participating in a choir boosts their optimism; 80 percent of choir singers expect more good things than bad things to happen to them, compared to only 55 percent of the general public.

For older adults, singing in a choir provides additional benefits: Older choir singers are more likely to report a “very good” quality of life and more likely to rate their health as “excellent” or “very good” compared to the general population. And older choir singers are also less likely to report difficulties with activities of daily living.

A separate study followed a group of 193 London choir singers touched by cancer – whether as patients, caregivers, or health-care providers – for two years. Researchers surveyed the singers and collected saliva samples after choir practices. Study participants reported that singing significantly decreased their anxiety levels and improved their overall well-being. In addition, just one session of choir practice reduced stress hormones and increased cytokines, proteins that support the body’s ability to fight serious illness – physical evidence that choir singing offers tangible health benefits.

A third study collected qualitative data from 78 members of English choirs. Participants reported strong social bonding and powerful feelings of being “uplifted” by choir singing. Overall, the researchers concluded, their study supports an emerging theory of group singing as a resource for developing healthy relationships.

The take-home message: Singing as part of a group provides a wide variety of mental and physical health benefits. Don’t be shy: Join a local choir today.

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