Listening to music can help to reduce stress and boost positive emotions in adults, research by Queen’s University Belfast has revealed.
The study showed that no matter what age an adult is, music helps to lower stress levels. However, older adults had greater stress reduction than younger adults – especially when listening to music.
Over the last 20 years’ researchers have studied the positive effects of music listening, including reducing stress, improving mood and regulating emotion.
However, this Queen’s study examined, for the first time, age group differences in stress reduction by music listening.
The research trial, led by the School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, was carried out on 40 younger adults, aged between 18-30, and 40 older adults, aged between 60-81.
Dr Jenny Groarke, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, led the research. She explains: “Music listening makes up a large part of many people’s everyday lives. University students spend up to four hours a day listening to music and 64 per cent of adults aged 65-75 report listening at least once a day.
“The prevalence of stress and anxiety today, particularly in young people is of growing concern. There is a need for easily accessible, cost-effective interventions for stress management. The results of this study support the idea that listening to music supports coping with stress across the lifespan.
“This study also offers important insights into the effects of music on older adults, who have rarely been included in previous research on music listening.”
Before visiting the lab, participants created playlists of music they would listen to in stressful situations. When they got to the lab they were told they would have to deliver a speech which would be video recorded and evaluated, heightening stress levels. Half of the group then listened to their playlist of self-chosen music, while the other half listened to a radio documentary.
Stress reduction was greater in the group listening to music. Older adults also showed greater stress reduction in both conditions – listening to self-chosen music and listening to a radio documentary.
Dr Groarke continues: “The results indicate that personal music listening can support stress management for both younger and older adults. However, the fact that older adults showed greater stress reduction when listening to self-chosen music and when listening to a radio documentary also supports existing theory that emotion regulation abilities develop over time and improve with age.
“This shows that as people get older their ability to reduce their negative feelings, and prolong their positive feelings improves.”