Dr. Gilbert Luceno, a family medicine physician with Mercy Medical Group in Roseville, shares his answers to questions about music and health. Dr. Luceno is a musician and is passionate about the intersection of music and healthy living.
What are some general health benefits to learning an instrument?
Learning to play an instrument or learning to sing can help your health in several different ways. As hobbies, these activities help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Learning to play music keeps the brain sharper as we get older. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, playing an instrument as a child keeps the mind sharper as we age. The University of Kansas Medical Center study recruited 70 healthy adults ages 60 to 83, and divided them into groups based on their levels of musical experience. Those who knew how to play instruments performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The brain functions measured by the tests tend to decline with age.
Music improves our listening and reading skills, as well as hand-eye coordination. A person will need to learn to listen well to know whether or not one is hitting the right notes. Reading sheet music in order to play specific notes will enhance a person’s reading skills and at the same time, playing a musical instrument requires good hand-eye coordination.
Knowing how to play an instrument clearly has many benefits, but what about just listening to music. Are there health benefits related to enjoying music?
There has been countless research done through the years about the benefits of music to our health. Listening to music, much like playing music, helps reduce stress and anxiety. There are several hospitals in the US that use music to reduce anxiety before surgery. Some hospitals use music after surgery to reduce pain. Music also has shown to improve memory. There are several studies about the effect of music in patients with Alzheimer's dementia, where playing music has helped patients with dementia remember lyrics that they couldn’t recall before.
Listening to music can also help reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system. In a small study of about 300 subjects, those who listened to joyful, fun music had much lower cortisol levels (which is the stress hormone) and better immune systems compared to those who listened to random tones. Playing music in a nursery also proved to help premature babies eat more, sleep more, and grow more.
What are some activities where it's beneficial to have music playing?
Essentially in almost everything we do, listening to music is beneficial, whether while reading, studying, working out and even sleeping — but this largely depends on the type of music.
Can music help with productivity?
Yes, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the “reward” area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma, according to Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic. In many workplaces, people get easily distracted by little sounds. Music can help bring people back to focus.
Do you have any words of encouragement for someone who is interested in learning an instrument or taking up singing?
Never give up. Remember that everybody was a beginner at some point. Playing a musical instrument is a learned skill. Continue to play and learn. Most importantly, have fun with it. Sing your heart out.
Dr. Gilbert Luceno is currently accepting new patients looking for a family medicine physician in Roseville, CA. Visit MyMercyMedicalGroup.com to learn more about Mercy Medical Group, including the insurances we accept.