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Older people, mums-to-be, refugees and prisoners get a lift from singing

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Music makes older people less lonely, anxious and depressed, but a fresh study shows elderly folk aren’t the only ones to get a mood-boost from group singing.

Pregnant women, young offenders, prisoners, young adults, workers and refugees all benefit from joining in with, or listening to music, a new review highlights.

The Brunel-lead What Works Centre for Wellbeing sifted research from the UK, US, Canada and Australia to uncover a strong link between regular group music sessions and better wellbeing in people from several walks of life.

"The review shows convincing evidence that listening to and taking part in music activities can enhance wellbeing across a range of population groups,” said Dr Louise Mansfield, from Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies.

The team from Brunel, Winchester, Brighton and the London School of Economics found strong evidence listening to relaxing music eases anxiety and anger among prisoners and young offenders. And pregnant women who take part in structured music therapy were also found to show less stress, anxiety and depression. Music-making schemes for refugees and other marginalised people were found to help people learn, build relationships and take part in the wider community.

And the analysis  found higher levels of happiness and ‘worthwhileness’ in people who attend Gospel and South Asian music concerts as well as people who play a musical instrument.

“This uses existing research and shows us the broader trends and overall picture,” said Nancy Hey, Director of What Works Centre for Wellbeing, which commissioned the review with The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).“But we are confident this is useful evidence to help us reach people otherwise overlooked and avoid cutting interventions that are effective.”

For more about the research, visit the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.