Sing your way to good mental health

‘To be heard’: The social and mental health benefits of choir singing for disadvantaged adults

From Psychology of Music

Adults living with a chronic mental illness or disability tend to participate less frequently in occupational and social interactions compared to the general population. This may exacerbate problems. Those that suffer with a mental illness may experience a negative effect on daily functioning as well as impairment or prevention of typical development potentially leading to social marginalization. This study recognizes there is a need for community-based strategies to assist individuals with chronic mental health problems to achieve mental health and wellbeing while remaining out of hospital. The paper aims to explore the personal experiences of choir members as it is understood that singing provides the opportunity for meaningful activity, social connectedness and quality of life for these individuals. The research demonstrates that, with appropriate support, adults experiencing chronic mental health problems or disabilities are able to gain important social and health benefits from choir singing. The wide popularity of tv shows like X-Factor and Glee suggest that even amateur singing; individually or within a group, is publicly encouraged and celebrated which hopefully enables many who find it difficult to socialize and integrate to become involved in the activity to discover their voice and identity.  Getting involved in singing activities is very much on-trend, it’s credible and accessible to all. Many could be encouraged to sing their way to better mental health.

Abstract

Compared with other members of the general population, adults living with a chronic mental illness or disability tend to participate less frequently in occupational and social interactions. This may exacerbate problems such as emotional flattening and social isolation. Supported activities like choir singing present an opportunity for meaningful activity and social connectedness for these individuals. The aim of this study was to explore the personal experiences of choir members (89% of whom experienced chronic mental health problems, 28% physical disabilities and 11% intellectual disability) in relation to their wellbeing using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 21 members of the choir at three time points in the choir’s inaugural year: at the inception of the choir, after six months, and after 12 months. Three content themes emerged: (1) personal impact (positive emotions, emotional regulation, spiritual experience, self-perception, finding a voice); (2) social impact (connectedness within the choir, connection with audience, social functioning); and (3) functional outcomes (health benefits, employment capacity, and routine). A fourth theme of time was also apparent in the data. Results of this study were consistent with the social identity theory notion that forming a new and valued group identity (as a choir member) was associated with emotional and health benefits for the participants

 

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Article details
Dingle, G., Brander, C., Ballantyne, J., & Baker, F. (2012). ‘To be heard’: The social and mental health benefits of choir singing for disadvantaged adults Psychology of Music DOI: 10.1177/0305735611430081

     
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