Can singing improve our health?

Whilst singing can lift our spirits, research evidence suggests it could also improve breathing for people with lung conditions and help us cope with dementia.Dr Simon Opher, Clinical Lead for social prescribing in Gloucestershire, discusses the health benefits of singing.

“In Gloucestershire, we have been exploring how health-focussed singing groups, specifically for people with a lung condition, can enhance the medical support people with persistent respiratory conditions already receive.

Funded by the local NHS, Breathe in Sing out groups across the county are helping people to gain more control over their breathing and learn how to manage their condition better.

Trained vocal leaders teach participants appropriate breathing techniques through singing during the 12 week courses. Around 50 people have been referred to the programme so far, and feedback has been really positive, with participants  indicating that they feel more positive and less stressed or anxious, both during the singing session and afterwards.

Being part of a group also helps participants to gain confidence and a sense of achievement, meet others and feel more like choir members rather than patients, which can in turn improve their overall wellbeing. Several participants have also reported that they find it easier to breathe after the courses, and that the camaraderie and friendships in the group help them to feel relaxed.

Clinical trials have shown that in addition to breathing improvements and increased lung volume, singing can also help people with depression and anxiety and improve voice quality and power for people living with Parkinson’s disease. There is strong evidence that people with COPD use their lungs more effectively after attending singing groups and that singing can also improve the behaviour and wellbeing of people living with dementia.”

Breathe in Sing out groups are run by Mindsong, a Gloucestershire charity that works with people who have dementia as well as respiratory conditions.