Music and Health: A Short Review of Research and Practice

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Barnes J, Ewbank N, Forrester M, Gilbert R, Vella-Burrows T

Year of Publication:

Nick Ewbank Associates

Publication Type:


The paper covers dimensions of music and health, including the physiological benefits of music, with specific investigation into music and empathy. Key findings also highlight the value of music participation as an important tool for both personal wellbeing and social cohesion.

Investigation into music and the brain links music to many physiological effects, including: effective attachment in infants; the development of empathy in childhood; the regulation of mood; and strategies for coping with stress. Research also links music to ameliorating specific health issues, such as dementia and lung health.

Key findings from the paper detail how active engagement in music making has been shown to have more of a positive impact on wellbeing than passive consumption. A dose-response relationship between arts engagement and mental wellbeing is highlighted in Australian researcher Dr Christina Davies’s study, which finds that people taking part in recreational creative activities, including music, for at least two hours a week reported a significant increase in their wellbeing.

Aligned with these findings, a person-centred and community-focused approach to health and wellbeing is being invested in through UK health policy, in the form of ‘social prescribing’. This is creating an increased role for music and wider arts engagement, and puts primary prevention and support for healthy lifestyles at the heart of health planning.

The paper also highlights a number of exemplar projects from the UK, some of which have gained significant media attention, including approaches to bringing participatory music to people and examples of research in practice.

Evidence Type: Literature Review

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Literature Review

Context: Community

Art Forms: Music

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Vella-Burrows,T., Ewbank,N., Gilbert,R.,Forrester,M. & Barnes,J. (2019). Music and Health: A Short Review of Research and Practice. UK: Nick Ewbank Associates.