We wish you a vocal Christmas â" because it should help ensure a happy
New Year. According to researchers at Western Ontario University,
Canada, singing can help lift depression. And closer to home, as we
report above, a choir is proving to be a canny cure for people with
asthma and other serious breathing problems.
Here Christopher Browning explains why there are lots of good reasons
to sing out.
Because singing tones muscles at the back of the throat, it has been
shown to give the long-suffering partners of snorers a silent night.
Alise Ojay, who headed a study into its benefits at the University of
Exeter, says: âSurgical interventions to treat snoring include
removing tissue from the upper throat or toughening it by creating
scar tissue. âSinging offers a harmless, healthy, noninvasive,
inexpensive, even enjoyable way to restore the throatâs tone.â
For more information, see singingforsnorers.com
Every parent knows that singing a lullaby can calm a grumpy child, but
a study at the University of Western Sydney found that it can also
soothe desperately ill infants.Researchers discovered songs help
babies in intensive care cope with their life-saving treatment. They
say songs help tots maintain normal behavioural development. They are
less irritable, upset and tearful. Dr Stephen Malloch says: âItâs
likely the babies who received music therapy used up less energy when
compared with the babies who did not receive the therapy. âIf a baby
is less irritable and cries less, this has implications for rate of
healing and weight gain â" two significant factors which contribute to
the length of a hospital stay.â
Songs from our childhoods appear to break through the barriers of
dementia. Canadian scientists found that patients with severe
Alzheimerâs, who did not respond to other stimulus, were able to
recognise songs from their youth and join in. If nurses played a tune
incorrectly one would screw up her face and complain, going some way
to proveing that the areas of the brain which retain musical memories
are not affected by the condition. Boffins hope the discovery will
lead to music therapies to help patients with dementia.
Companies use songs to help build teamwork and loyalty. Computer giant
IBM has rehashed an American military tune while cash till
manufacturer NCR has created its own version of The Beatlesâ Back In
The USSR to encourage employees to sing from the same hymn sheet.
Advocates of business-bop claim that upbeat company songs are designed
to stress youthful energy and a can-do attitude. They are widely used
in the US and Japan. But, and this wonât surprise you, Warwick
University discovered many British workers found company songs an
American health campaigners are using song to help smokers stub out.
Neighbourhood choirs have been formed to promote the benefits of
quitting and to encourage a buddy system where on-song choir members
help each other beat their nicotine addiction. A two-year pilot
project cut smoking rates from 34 to 27 per cent across three mainly
African-American neighbourhoods, while smoking rates in comparable
areas fell by just one per cent over the same period. A key feature in
this initiative was a Gospelfest, where each choir included an
antismoking song in its repertoire.
Listening to a choir could help you shake off coughs and colds.
Researchers at Frankfurt University, Germany, asked volunteers to
listen to choral music and used saliva tests to measure hormone levels
before and after the performance. Levels of cortisol, a hormone known
to suppress immune system response, was much lower after the show.
Cortisol undermines the bodyâs ability to produce T cells which fight
infection. High levels of cortisol are also linked to blood pressure
and blood sugar problems.
The same researchers found joining in a singsong lowers stress. Some
studies have shown that singing releases the love hormone oxytocin,
which is released by both sexes during orgasm â" and researchers at
Canterbury Christ Church University found choir members feel more
upbeat after singing.