Does listening to music help with stress based on science?

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it’s important to find ways to manage it in healthy and effective ways. Research shows that stress can have a negative impact on our health even 10 years later. [1]

There are different ways how you can deal with stress. For example, research shows that laughter may be one of them. Click here to read my post and find out if laughter is the best medicine based on scientific research.

However, let’s talk about other simple and effective ways to deal with stress. So, does listening to music help with stress based on science? Let’s find out.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is evidence-based practice of using music to improve psychological, emotional, physical health such as reducing stress, pain, improving mood, lowering blood pressure and others.

Music therapy experiences may include listening, singing, playing instruments, or composing music. It’s not required to have special musical skills to participate in music therapy.

Music therapists are trained health professionals that can help you use music to achieve your goals such as reducing stress.

Does listening to music help with stress based on science?

Meta-analysis of 47 studies found a significant medium-to-strong effect of music therapy on stress-related outcomes, indicating that music therapy is effective in reducing stress-related symptoms in both mental healthcare and medical settings. [2]

A systematic review of 17 studies says that listening to music may have a positive influence on stress recovery in healthy individuals. However, it is noted that there’s not enough evidence yet to say for sure. [3]

Another systematic review also shows that listening to music helps to reduce depressive symptoms in adults. It is recommended that the listeners are given choices over the kind of music which they listen to. [4]

Meta-analysis of 19 articles says that music therapy has an effect on reducing depressive symptoms to some extent in older adults. [5]

The results of 12 studies suggest that music listening has a moderate effect on anxiety in patients with coronary heart disease. However, the results were inconsistent between studies and, therefore, need to be interpreted with caution. [6]

Results of the review of 23 studies suggest that listening to music reduces heart rate. The results show that listening to patient‐selected music resulted in a heart rate reduction of 6.44 beats per minute (bpm) compared to 2.74 bpm when listening to researcher‐selected music. However, compared to patient‐selected music, the results were consistent across studies when researcher‐selected music was used. [6]

Music and other diseases

A systematic review of 19 RCTs says that music is effective in reducing anxiety and pain in children undergoing medical and dental procedures. [7]

Meta-analysis of 81 RCTs says that there’s a statistically significant decrease in both anxiety and pain in adults receiving music interventions before, during or after surgery. [8]

A systematic review of 10 RCTs says that music therapy is consistently associated with a reduction in anxiety and stress of critically ill patients. [9]

Meta-analysis of 3 studies shows that music may improve systolic blood pressure. [10]

Meta-analysis of 32 randomized trials says that music intervention is associated with improved psychological outcomes. The effects of music on vital signs especially blood pressure are small. [11]

A systematic review of 81 trials with a total of 5576 participants shows that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, depression, hope, pain, and fatigue in adults with cancer. [12]


So, does listening to music help with stress based on science? Well, scientific research shows that music can help reduce stress. Moreover, music can reduce anxiety and pain of ill people (i.e. cancer) or people undergoing some medical procedures. However, some studies mention that there can be a high risk of bias for some reasons (i.e. the studies are not blind trials) so the results should be treated with caution.

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