Live music

Many people love to let their hair down at a concert and now science has proved that listening to live music is the miracle cure for stress.

Researchers from the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London, revealed that attending concerts reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

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“People report feeling more relaxed when they’ve been to concerts or visited museums or galleries,” research leader Daisy Fancourt explains. “We wanted to see whether there were deeper biological effects from cultural engagement.”


Scientists studied 117 volunteers who attended concerts featuring relaxing classical music, including compositions by American composer Eric Whitacre. The study group provided saliva samples one hour before and then again one hour later during the interval. These samples were analyzed for a range of hormones including those responsible for stress.

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During the concert, listeners reported feeling significantly more relaxed and happier than at the start. The participants’ saliva also showed a significant reduction in the cortisol hormone.

“Interestingly, these results were found across all ages, for men and women, and were not affected by familiarity with the music, musical experience or frequency of attending concerts. So, we suggest concerts can impact a very wide range of people,” Fancourt adds.

At the moment, it’s unclear whether other types of music could produce the same effect. But investigators say that dancing at pop or rock concerts might lead to temporary increases in stress hormones, similar to exercise. Alternatively, some might find attending a gig quite cathartic, so by the end of it might feel more relaxed.

“Certainly big concerts don’t suit everybody,” Fancourt says. “But there are good and bad types of stress. Many people hate being crammed onto the tube, for example, but don’t mind standing in a crowded music venue. The sensation of crowding might be very similar, but when it is associated with rush hour people just want to get home, so they experience it as a bad thing. Whereas when the crowding is at a concert, it brings excitement about the music to come and energy from other people, so it can become a good stress.”

Researchers hope their study will encourage people to attend more concerts as a way of relaxing. They claim whatever the style of music somebody enjoys, going to a live event can be a great way to unwind.

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