9 Incredible Health Benefits of Music

The right notes can dampen appetite, relax blood vessels, and improve brain focus.

By Lauren Gelman


Favorite tunes keep you calmFuse/Thinkstock

Listening to their favorite music lowered anxiety among ICU patients by about one third, according to an Ohio State University study. Not just any tunes—it had to be familiar and comforting pieces, according to researchers. Try listening to these tunes to get the best nights sleep.

Mood music makes you eat lessiStock/Thinkstock

When Hardee’s gave one of its restaurants a fine-dining makeover—including soft lighting and jazz—diners ate about 18 percent less and reported enjoying their food more, according to a Cornell study in the journal Psychological Reports. Also try out this other simple trick to eat less junk food.

Inspiring instrumentals improve your mental focusHemera/Thinkstock

Uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons can boost mental alertness, according to research from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. When young adults were given a task that required intense concentration, they did better while listening to the bright “Spring” concerto versus the slower and more somber “Autumn” one. Here are the reasons you can’t focus.

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Good music soothes and relaxes your blood vesselsiStock/Thinkstock

Listening to their favorite music for 30 minutes a day improved blood vessel health in heart disease patients, Dutch researchers reported at the 2013 European Society of Cardiology Congress. Patients who cued up tunes while they exercised experienced the greatest cardiovascular benefits. Hearing music increased production of nitric oxide, a gas that helps dilate blood vessels, keeping them healthy and flexible.

Group singing makes you happyFuse/Thinkstock

British researchers recently surveyed 375 people who sang in a choir, sang alone, or played on a sports team. All the activities contributed to greater emotional well-being, but people in choirs reported feeling happier than those who belted out tunes solo. Chorus members also rated their groups as more meaningful social experiences than athletes did with their sports teams. The physical act of synchrony—acting in time with others—or choral singing could promote feelings of unity.

Playing an instrument may protect brain sharpness later in lifeiStock/Thinkstock

The more years middle-aged and older adults spent playing musical instruments as children, the faster their brains responded to speech sounds during an experiment, according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. A slower response could be indicative of how ably adults interpret speech. “Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much, but the brain is very sensitive to timing. A millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults,” Michael Kilgard, a University of Texas at Dallas brain researcher who was not involved in the study, commented in a press release. Also, give these morning brain exercises a try to keep you sharp.

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Music classes make kids more cooperativeiStock/Thinkstock

Preschoolers who sang and played instruments as a group were a whopping 30 times more likely to help others in subsequent tasks that measured their helpfulness and problem-solving abilities, compared with a control group of kids who listened to a story, British researchers reported in 2013.

A mellow playlist may ease road rageiStock/Thinkstock

Feel an angry outburst coming on after a driver cuts you off, or as traffic starts to build? A quick switch to mellow music helped drivers calm down and make fewer mistakes during an experiment in a simulator, according to research published in 2013 in the journal Ergonomics.

Music therapy may help teens cope with canceriStock/Thinkstock

Teenagers undergoing cancer treatment who joined a music therapy program in the hospital showed improved coping skills and more resilience when compared to a control group of patients who received audio books. The patients, who were undergoing stem cell transplants, worked with music therapists to write song lyrics and produce videos. “Making music videos allows these patients to project their feelings through another outlet,” Shawna Grissom, director of child life at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told HealthDay. “It gives them a sense of control, a medium in which they can express themselves.”

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