Rx:Listen to Music


Rx: Listen to Music

Is listening to music good for us?  Does music help in healing medical ailments?  Is there science supporting the benefical effects of the arts?  These are just a few questions raised  and being studied by scientists across the globe.

In a recent New York Times article (March 29, 2009),  Michael Roizen, MD – chief wellness medical officer of the Wellness Institute at the Clevland Clinic – states listening to classical music on a consistent basis suggests “decreases in all-cause mortality, reflecting slower aging of arteries as well as cancer-related and environmental factors.  Attending sports events like soccer or football offers none of these benefits.” (1)   He states he’s not sure if the decrease in all-cause mortality is due to stress relief or other properties.

Dr. Michael Roizen is also studying the effects of singing to help patients with strokes to relearn language.  Remember the singing1999 movie “Flawless?”  The main character (Robert Deniro) suffers a debilitating stroke and is prescribed to take therapeutic singing lessons for his paralyzed larynx.  His music teacher is his gay next-door neighbor.  The outcome from taking singing lessons is positive, for relearning and regaining speech AND learning tolerance of different lifestyles.

Another researcher in neurocognition of music and language at U of Sussex in England, Stefan Koelsch, is studying the same subject, i.e., music-notes2active music participation by patients suffering from depression.  According to the Mr. Koelsch, “physiologically, it’s perfectly plausible that music would affect not only psychiatric conditions but also endocrine, autonomic and autoimmune disorders.”

The main purposes of the article was to shed light on the collaborative efforts of the music and medical fields to quantify the effects of music on patients diagnosed with certain disease conditions, and highlight several companies creating and marketing propietary music  for ‘medicinal purposes’.   Here are a few interesting points made in the article: unlike prescription medication with known side and adverse effects, listening to music has no side effects; prescribe music as a prescription, just like prescribing a drug or therapeutic modality. And finally, listening to music does affect mood and well-being.

Hippocrates2The therapeutic effects of music  is not new news…the method of delivering music, marketing and money needed for these new elaborate systems are.  WHO is paying for the high-cost of audio systems fit for concert halls in hospitals?  Instead, pay musicians to play in clinical settings.  Music is their passion and their presence will help humanize an environment that can be frightening and dehumanizing.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing recognized the beneficial power of music on the sick. (2)  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, believed that the human body acts as a whole, so that when an organ is ill, the whole body is being afflicted, ie., humans are psychosomatic entities. (3)

Numerous investigations on the effectiveness of music on adult patients in critical care settings in the 1990’s showed reduced anxiety states (4-6),  physiological relaxation as evidenced by reduced vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and respirations), improved mood in critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation (7-8), and published accounts indicate critically ill patients enjoy and find music helpful in dealing with the environment and in coping with the critical illness itself .(6,9-10)


For healthcare professionals working inpatient and outpatient venues, and families with a loved one going through medical treatment, try music as a creative intervention by gathering the following:

  1.  Headset
  2. iPod or CD player
  3. Playlist of the patients’ favorite music – soft, classical or sounds of nature
  4. Play the music on a consistent basis

Here’s my Rx for you…

‘Time to Say Goodbye’


Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman


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