This has been shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg that examined the health effects for choir members.
In the research project “Kroppens Partitur” (The Body’s Musical Score), researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy are studying how music, in purely biological terms, affects our body and our health.
The object is to find new forms where music may be used for medical purposes, primarily within rehabilitation and preventive care.
In the latest study, the research group is able to show how the musical structure influences the heart rate of choir members.
In December 2012, Bjorn Vickhoff and his research group brought together fifteen 18-year-olds at Hvitfeltska High School in Gothenburg and arranged for them to perform three different choral exercises: monotone humming, singing the well-known Swedish hymn “Harlig ar Jorden” (Lovely is the Earth) as well as the chanting of a slow mantra.
The heart rhythm of the choir members was registered as they performed in each case.
The results from the study show that the music’s melody and structure has a direct link is linked to the cardiac activity of the individual choir member; to sing in unison has a synchronising effect so that the heart rate of the singers tends to increase and decrease at the same time.
The researchers’ hypothesis is that the health effects arise through singing “imposing” a calm and regular breathing pattern which has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability – something that, in its turn, is assumed to have a favourable effect on health.
The study is published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.