Would you consider singing as an alternative to medication?

At the recent Cheltenham Science Festival, Dr Simon Opher, a Gloucestershire based GP urged fellow doctors to prescribe singing instead of drugs.

Dr Opher is convinced that singing has a wide range of health and social benefits and says that his patients see him less if they join a singing group or choir.

“With dementia there is some evidence that when we sing an area of our brain gets more blood flow and they are the ones that are usually preserved in dementia,” Dr Opher said.

“You can be deeply affected when you hear certain songs, and that feeling is really important.  It awakens people suffering from dementia; it makes them feel more involved.”

Dr Opher said that research shows that singing can also help people with Parkinson’s because it improves the loudness of their voice, which can be weakened by the disease.

“There are lots of adaptations and perhaps we are only touching the surface of getting into other areas of disease that we can help people with.”

“As a doctor, I believe it is so important to persuade the medical profession of the benefit of music and singing.  These types of remedies can make a patient better in lots of generalised ways, as well as more specifically with dementia and breathing.”

“It’s not a panacea and it can really help.”

Dr Daisy Fancourt, a senior research fellow at UCL, is in agreement.  A link between the arts and health is proven to be beneficial and singing, in particular, has been shown to help improve heart rate, blood pressure, mood and depression.

“Over the last couple of decades we’ve started to have real scientific evidence about how and why singing can have these health benefits,” she said.

“Singing has multiple benefits.  It involves emotional expression and regulation, which we know is good for mental health.  It can help us to get out of the house which is good for our physical health and can provide social interaction too.”

“The best thing about singing as a health intervention is that it is fun!”

Dr Fancourt went on to say that attending musical concerts also has a positive effect on health.

“There was almost the same biological reduction in stress from classical music concerts as from rock concerts, which might sound strange but underlines the contextual factor that going to concerts is often a relaxing activity regardless of the genre,” she added.

Do you have any experience of group singing?  Does it make you feel good when you sing?  Would you be happy to use it as a replacement for medication?

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