Music + Mental Health

The next HCLDR weekly chat is inspired by two events happening the same week:

  1. January 29th is Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell Canada is one of three main communications providers here in Canada. For the past 10 years they have put the spotlight on mental health – helping to end stigma and raise awareness. On Bell Let’s Talk day, the company donates 5¢ for every text, call, tweet, social media video view, use of their Facebook filter and use of their Snapchat filter. Over the years, HCLDR has supported this initiative by holding a chat on the topic of mental health.
  2. January 26th is the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards

I thought it would be fun to combine these two events into our next HCLDR chat: Music + Mental Health

It’s not hard to understand the tie between music and mental health. We all favorite songs which trigger happy (and perhaps bittersweet) memories when we hear it played on the radio (or streamed online). For me, New Order’s Blue Monday will always remind me of high school summers. I played this song endlessly on my tape deck (yes, I’m THAT old). I can’t help but smile when I hear this song now.

I’m almost positive that everyone reading this article has a song that is there go-to pick-me-up. The song you play before heading into an important meeting or the one you put on when you are feeling a little down. Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero is a classic mood booster. Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger is a workout energizer. Rachel Platten’s Fight Song is the anthem for many patients and many healthcare organizations (ex: Jeremiah Sings Duet with Rachel Platten, Valley Children’s Hospital).

Need more evidence?

In August 2019, a survey conducted by Fly Research found:

  • Survey conducted by Fly Research in August 2019:
  • 9% of respondents said that listening to music helped them to relax
  • 4% said that listening to albums made them feel better when they were felling down
  • 3% said listening to their favorite album is a source of comfort
  • Listening to an album was the 3rd most popular activity that people did to improve their mood and mental well-being

“We’ve been aware of the scientific evidence regarding the positive effects of music on the brain and body for decades. We also know that taking “time out” of our hectic schedules is essential to maintain our well-being. So the album offers a perfect recipe for delivering the cocktail of neurochemical and physiological benefits, while also ensuring we enjoy an extended break. It’s an experience with a built-in stopwatch so there’s no need for clock watching. We can just sit back and enjoy the effects.” – Dr Julia Jones (aka Dr Rock @DrRockUK)

The impact of music is not just limited to mood or mental well being. Studies have shown that music has cognitive benefits as well. In 1993, researchers at the Centre for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine published a study that showed 10 minutes of listening to a Mozart piano sonata temporarily raised the measurable IQ of college students by up to 9 points. In particular, Mozart’s music was found to improve spatial-temporal reasoning. Not surprisingly, the media dubbed this the “Mozart Effect”

“How might music enhance cognitive performance? It’s not clear, but the researchers speculated that listening to music helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the right half of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. According to this construct, music — or at least some forms of music — acts as an “exercise” that warms up selected brain cells, allowing them to process information more efficiently.” – Harvard Health Publishing July 2011.

The impact of music on health has been recognized by many in healthcare and has led to the creation of Music Therapy programs at many organizations. According to the American Music Therapy Association: “Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.”

Music Therapy has been used to help patients with:

  • Autism
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Whenever the topic of music + healthcare comes up on HCLDR, I cannot help but think of my friend and community member – Ross Martin @RossMartin. He is an accomplished musician, healthcare informaticist, patient advocate and the founder of the American College of Medical Informatimusicology @ACMImimi (disclosure, I am a proud member). Ross was the first person to open my eyes to the power of music in healthcare.

On Tuesday January 28th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) please join us on the weekly #hcldr tweetchat as we discuss music + mental health:

  • T1 What is your go-to song or album when you need to boost your mood?
  • T2 Share a story about the power of music – to heal, to energize or to change lives – that you have experienced or seen
  • T3 How can we overcome the stigma that non-drug based therapies for #mentalhealth or medical issues are not “real medicine”?
  • T4 How might we boost investment in non-drug-based therapies to address the growing mental health challenge?

PS: It would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the music industry is suffering a mental health crisis – much like healthcare is. The number of musical artists that suffer from poor mental health has skyrocketed over the past decade, yet there are very few resources for them to turn to.


“Britons turn to albums to boost their mental well-being”, British Phonographic Industry, 10 September 2019,, accessed 26 January 2020

Wesseldijk, L.W., Ullén, F. & Mosing, M.A. “The effects of playing music on mental health outcomes” Scientific Reports, 30 August 2019,, accessed 26 January 2020

Heid, Markham. “You Asked: Is Listening to Music Good For Your Health?”, Time, 26 April 2018,, accessed 26 January 2020

“Music and Health”, Harvard Health Publishing, July 2011,, accessed 26 January 2020

“What is Music Therapy”, American Music Therapy Association,, accessed 26 January 2020

Warren, Molly. “The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health”, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19 December 2016,, accessed 26 January 2020

Ulbricht, Catherine. “Music Therapy for Health and Wellness”, Psychology Today, 21 June 2013,, accessed 26 January 2020

“Music Therapy”, SickKids,, accessed 26 January 2020

Landis-Shack N, Heinz AJ, Bonn-Miller MO. “Music Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress in Adults: A Theoretical Review”, Psychomusicology, 27 December 2017,, accessed 26 January 2020

“Music Therapy Program Helps Relieve PTSD Symptoms”, US Department of Veterans Affairs, 6 January 2014,, accessed 26 January 2020

The American College of Medical Informatimusicology,

Wong, Jessica. “Changing the tune on tortured artists and musicians’ mental health”, CBC, 20 October 2019,, accessed 26 January 2020

Image Credit

Photo by on Unsplash

One comment

  1. music is a unique way to improve self-esteem. and also bind people to raise awareness for any health problems. the best way is to do it on mental health.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: