Music may be good medicine for older adults, boosting both their mental and physical health, a new survey finds.
Virtually all people between the ages of 50 and 80 (98%) say they benefit in at least one health-related way from engaging with music, according to results from the latest University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Three-quarters said music helps them relieve stress or relax, 65% said it helps their mental health and mood, and about 60% said they get energized or motivated by music.
Overall, nine of 10 survey participants (89%) said music is very or somewhat important to them.
“Music has the power to bring joy and meaning to life. It is woven into the very fabric of existence for all of humankind,” said Dr. Joel Howell, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School who worked on the poll.
Music can benefit a variety of ailments related to aging, Howell added.
“We know that music is associated with positive effects on measures from blood pressure to depression,” Howell said in a university news release.
Most of the older adults surveyed said they listen to music, with 85% listening a few times a week and 80% watching musical performances a few times over the past year. Two in five (41%) attended a live concert.
Fewer actually make music themselves. About 8% said they’ve sung in a choir or organized group a few times over the past year, and another 8% say they play a musical instrument with others occasionally.
Further, a lack of music in a person’s life appears to make a real difference.
People who reported their physical health as fair or poor, or those who feel isolated, said they were less likely to listen to music every day, the poll found.
“While music doesn’t come up often in older adults’ visits with their usual care providers, perhaps it should,” said poll director Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren. “The power of music to connect us, improve mood and energy, or even ease pain [like 7% of respondents said it does for them], means it could be a powerful tool.”
About 19% of poll participants said music is even more important to them now than it was in their youth, while 46% said it’s just as important now as it was then.
The Michigan poll involved 2,657 adults ages 50 to 80 who were surveyed online in July and August 2023.
“Music is a universal language that has powerful potential to improve well-being,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, senior vice president of policy and brain health at AARP. “AARP’s own research shows that music can play an important role in healthy aging by improving our moods, fostering social connections and, potentially, enriching our brain health.”
Harvard Medical School has more on the brain benefits of music.
SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Feb. 7, 2024
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