Doing This Can Be as Beneficial for Mental Health as Exercise Study Suggests

mental health music

A recent study published on JAMA Network suggests that singing or listening to music has positive mental health effects similar to what can be gained from exercise or weight loss. This means we might replace gym time with music time sometime in the future and not lose any mental health benefits.

Furthermore, multiple kinds of research have found correlations between music and mental wellbeing. However, scientists struggle to understand why the correlation exists and to what extent it can be utilized is the last piece of the puzzle to make the studies helpful. Aside from this recent publication, numerous studies have highlighted the wonders possible with good music. From cancer patients surviving through the help of their activities in the choir to gospel music being a key preventive and treatment method for heart disease, we can argue that the potency of music on human health is limitless.

pretty hipster listening to music at a music festival

A systematic review of the association between music and healthy living

The study, which involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of 776 participants from 26 studies, was conducted to understand the association of music interventions with health-related quality of life.


This research is a turning point in proving the positive impacts of music on mental health. Studies suggesting that music can promote mental well-being and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) are being published more frequently.

However, we are yet to have scientific research that verifies the levels of impacts music can have on mental well-being relative to available interventions. Thus, very few steps are being taken to integrate musical intervention into mental health care procedures.

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To get in line with current standards in health care research, the scientists implemented both the 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36) and the 12-Item Short Form Survey (SF-12) to synthesize results from the investigation. Then all ramifications were weighed up, emphasizing the advantages of “non-pharmaceutical and medical interventions (e.g., exercise, weight loss)” on wellbeing over medical procedures that didn’t include music therapy.


According to the research which J. Matt McCrary Ph.D., led, “Associations between music interventions and changes in MCS scores (pre-post and music plus TAU vs. TAU) are within the range, albeit on the low end, of changes in MCS and PCS scores associated with established non–pharmaceutical/medical, as well as pharmaceutical/medical, health interventions, and thus are likely to be clinically significant.”

TAU in the research stands for “Treatment as Usual.”

This statement makes us understand that the difference between using pharmaceutical procedures to cure psychological issues and non-pharmaceutical practices (music) is insignificant.


Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of the 26 studies provided quantitative and moderate-quality evidence that music interventions are associated with clinically significant changes in mental HRQOL. 

Also, a subset of 8 studies demonstrated that adding music interventions to usual treatment was associated with clinically significant changes to mental HRQOL in certain conditions.

Probable limitations of the findings

Despite the overall positive findings, suggesting music’s effects on mental health are just the same as exercises and medications, there were certain variations. The researchers observed some discrepancies in the effectiveness of a musical intervention on the participants in the 26 studies. As such, using musical intervention in specific scenarios was inconclusive.

exercising in nature

The researchers continue to yearn for the integration of music therapy into mental health treatments. They hope that studies like this will be one of many to push the hand of health professionals, making them add music therapy to their prescriptions.

More importantly, subsequent studies are needed to clarify optimal music interventions and doses for use in specific clinical and public health cases.

Most of us already enjoy singing and listening to music; it won’t be a challenge to incorporate it into our daily mental health routine than carrying out exercises or following a strict diet plan.