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4 Scientific Studies that Show Music Decreasing Stress and Promoting Healing

musicnotesMusic therapy is becoming increasingly popular in the medical community, and is being used as an important part of palliative care, Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment, and even in the NICU.

This is because music has been proven time and time again to have a beneficial effect on both the body and the mind. In the five scientific studies listed below, music has been shown not only to reduce psychological stress, but to promote healing as well.

#1 – McGill University Review

This large-scale review was conducted by a team led by McGill University Professor Daniel J. Levitin, and was the first of its kind. After reviewing more than 400 research papers into the neurochemistry of music, researchers found that listening to music not only helped to reduce a patient’s stress, it also improved immune system function and was more effective than prescription medications at reducing patient anxiety prior to surgery. The study was published in the March 2013 edition of Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

In the review, researchers found that listening to music increased the production of immunoglobulin A, which plays an important role in the body’s mucous system immunity. More natural killer cells (which attack harmful bacteria and germs) were also produced. At the same time, listening to music reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

#2 – Music Reduces Anxiety Levels of Patients Receiving Ventilation

In this study, researchers asked 64 patients on mechanical ventilation to answer the Chinese State Trait Anxiety Inventory scale before and after either 30 minutes of rest, or 30 minutes of listening to music. The participants’ physiological indicators and resting behaviors were also recorded both before and after the study period.

Researchers found that participants who listened to music for a single session of 30 minutes showed greater psychological and physiological relaxation than those who simply rested without listening to music. This may mean that music can help stave off or even prevent some of the potentially harmful physiological responses caused by the anxiety patients often experience while on a ventilator.

#3 – Music Reduces Agitation in Dementia Patients

In a study published in the August 01 edition of Nursing Times, Nottingham University Hospitals nurs Jacqueline Craig found that music therapy found that music therapy helped to reduce stress and anxiety, while helping to enhance emotional wellbeing and even helped to increase social interaction.

The study reviewed a number of scientific articles on the subject of music therapy as part of dementia care, and found that patients showed improvement in anxiety and stress levels with a minimum of two 30-minute therapy sessions per week.

#4 – Music in the NICU

Finally, while recorded music may risk overstimulating the senses of premature infants, live music has been found to be extremely effective. In a 2013 study published in Pediatrics, researchers found that infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU infants showed positive physiologic and developmental outcomes when exposed to live music interventions three times per week.

The study involved 272premature infants with clinical sepsis, respiratory distress, and/or small for gestational age symptoms. During the period during which rhythms or lullabies were played or sung, the infants experienced lower heart rates, better oxygen saturation, higher caloric intake, and increased sucking behavior. In addition, the live music or rhythms proved to be soothing to parents present for the study as well.


Music has long been considered to be one of humanity’s greatest creative achievements; as it turns out, this creative force may have serious medical implications as well. Study after study has shown that music not only helps to reduce psychological stress, it can improve physiological symptoms, aid in healing, and improve immune function as well.


4 Scientific Studies that Show Music Decreasing Stress and Promoting Healing

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). 4 Scientific Studies that Show Music Decreasing Stress and Promoting Healing. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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