The significance of choral singing for sustaining psychological wellbeing: findings from a survey of choristers in England, Australia and Germany

Clift, Stephen; Hancox, Grenville
June 2010
Music Performance Research;Jun2010, Vol. 3, p79
Academic Journal
Previous research has highlighted the possible benefits of active participation in singing for wellbeing and health. Shortcomings in the literature are the lack of a common understanding of wellbeing and health, and the absence of a theoretical model of the causal mechanisms linking singing with wellbeing. The present study aims to address these shortcomings through a large cross-national survey of choral singers based on the World Health Organization definition of health and utilizing measures developed by the WHO Quality of Life project. A total of 1124 choral singers drawn from choirs in Australia, England and Germany completed the WHOQOL-BREF questionnaire to measure physical, psychological, social and environmental wellbeing, and a 12-item 'effects of choral singing scale'. Written accounts of the effects of choral singing on wellbeing and health were given in response to open questions. A high degree of consensus emerged on the positive benefits of choral singing, with women significantly more likely to endorse the value of singing for wellbeing and health compared with men. A significant but small correlation between psychological wellbeing and positive effects of choral singing also emerged for women, but not for men. Particular attention is given to qualitative accounts of the effects of choral singing on wellbeing from 85 participants with relatively low psychological wellbeing as assessed by the WHOQOL-BREF, and high scores on the singing scale. Four categories of significant personal and health challenges were disclosed by members of this group: enduring mental health problems; family/relationship problems; physical health challenges and recent bereavement. Their accounts also suggested six 'generative mechanisms' by which singing may impact on wellbeing and health: positive affect; focused attention; deep breathing; social support; cognitive stimulation and regular commitment.


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