Publisher’s Point: Sickness And Singing In The Summertime

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

We have been just handed a whole new set of adventures in the form of a two-week mask ordinance that hopefully will end on July 31. I can’t imagine the level of stress that our leaders are experiencing on all levels, from the national to local.
I have been casting about with the new news, with the desire to be a positive help for myself and those around me. These are unprecedented times, and our response to them can determine a number of things, including our quality of life and perhaps our physical health. I have always known that music has therapeutic qualities, and for a while nearly 50 years ago, considered getting a degree in music therapy. But recently I came across some interesting research that very specifically breaks down the benefits of singing, particularly with others with respect to something as stressful as cancer.

If you remember some of the award-winning home videos that were paraded on the national stage during our first round with COVID, some of the best were of families singing together. There were whole families and choreography routines that were hilarious, touching, and downright good musically. It was a great way to pass the time, fight boredom, come together, and get stronger. But what is it about singing specifically that can be such a medicine? Below is a brief re-cap of a medical study of cancer patients that was conducted on the effect of singing in a choir. Obviously, all of the medical disclaimers are in place, here. No one is claiming that singing is a cure for cancer or COVID or anything. But take a look at the findings and make your own decisions. It may just be that if we do a lot of singing together in the next couple of weeks, our immune systems will strengthen, and that would be a good thing. The study was conducted at Tenovus Cancer Care in connection with the Royal College of Music, and published in ecancermedicalscience.

Singing in a choir for just one hour boosts levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer, reduces stress and improves mood, which in turn could have a positive impact on overall health, a new study has found.

The research raises the possibility that singing in choir rehearsals could help to put people in the best possible position to receive treatment, maintain remission and support cancer patients.

The study tested 193 members of five different choirs. Results showed that singing for an hour was associated with significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in quantities of cytokines — proteins of the immune system — which can boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.

Dr Ian Lewis, Director of Research and Policy at Tenovus Cancer Care and co-author of the research, said: “These are really exciting findings. We have been building a body of evidence over the past six years to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, and now we can see it has biological effects too.

“We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing. It’s really exciting and could enhance the way we support people with cancer in the future.”

The study also found that those with the lowest levels of mental wellbeing and highest levels of depression experienced greatest mood improvement, associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body. There is a link between high levels of inflammation and serious illness.

We’ve got a new round of something that has gotten real old to get through, and I would like to humbly suggest, as corny as it may sound, that maybe we sing our way through it. Can’t hurt…