Mental Health

What is Singing for Mental Health?

In Scotland, Mental Health is one of the main public health challenges with 1 in 3 people estimated to be affected by mental health concerns each year. In 2017, the Scottish Government launched their Mental Health Strategy, which focusses on prevention and early treatment. Indeed, the evidence shows that singing, particularly group singing can positively benefit a person’s mental wellness and wellbeing.

There is a variety of ways singing can be good for mental health and wellbeing. A range of leisure activities has been shown to be helpful for well-being and mental health, including musical activities and activities involving arts and group singing. Research articles that discuss the benefits of group singing include those written by Stephen Clift, Grenville Hancox, Ian Morrison, Barbel Heiss et al. in 2010, Stephen Clift and Ian Morrison in 2011, and Kátia De Souza Cateano , Isabela M. F. Ferreira, Lígia G. S. Mariotto et al. in 2017. Group singing has even been found to be more effective than other hobbies like team sports, swimming or solo singing.

The value of singing and especially singing together with others may be explained by the positive effect of singing on mood, as well as on community building. In general, emotions associated with music can be positive ones. In addition, shared activities can enhance the experience of being immersed and absorbed in these activities, resulting in improved personal well-being as well as an increase in social cohesion. This sense of concentration or absorption in an activity –which can occur during singing– is called ‘flow’ and is found to be related to social bonding. A sense of flow goes together with improved well-being, heightened self-esteem, higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect.

Furthermore, shared positive emotions have been found to improve the relationship with others. Singing together can increase the process of belonging, since members socially identify with their group, which reflects their sense of belonging.  Belonging and relationships are important for mental health since social relationships can create a buffer to distress. Social relationships and a sense of belonging are one of the key ingredients in mental health recovery.

Singing Side by Side have developed a freely available toolkit to support Mental Health Inclusive Singing, available here.

Want to find a Singing for Mental Health group in your area?

If you would like to find a Singing for Mental Health group in your area, please visit see the Scotland’s Singing for Health Map. Singing for Mental Health groups are marked with a green and white heart.

What does the research say and how can I access it?

There are several open-access studies available where you can learn more about singing and mental health practices. Here is a selection of studies, evaluations, and literature reviews:

Caetano, K. A. de S. et al. (2019) ‘Choir singing as an activity to manage anxiety and temporomandibular disorders: Reports from a Brazilian sample’, Psychology of Music, 47(1), pp. 96–108. doi: 10.1177/0305735617739967.

Clift, S. & Morrison, I. (2011). Group singing fosters mental health and wellbeing: findings from the East Kent ”singing for health” network project. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 15, (2), 88-97. Available via Researchgate:

Clift, S., Hancox, G., Morrison, I., Hess, B., Kreutz, G., Stewart, D. (2010). Choral singing and psychological wellbeing: Quantitative and qualitative findings from English choirs in a cross-national survey. Journal of Applied Arts & Health, 1, 19–34. Available via Researchgate:

Davies, C., Knuiman, M., & Rosenberg, M. (2016). The art of being mentally healthy: a study to quantify the relationship between recreational arts engagement and mental well-being in the general population. BMC public health16, 15.

Juslin, P. N. & Laukka, P. (2004). Expression, Perception, and Induction of Musical Emotions: A Review and a Questionnaire Study of Everyday Listening. Journal of New Music Research, 33 (3), 217-238.

Keeler, J. R., Roth, E. A., Neuser, B. L., Spitsbergen, J. M., Waters, D. J. M. & Vianney, J.-M. (2015). The neurochemistry and social flow of singing: bonding and oxytocin. The neurochemistry and social flow of singing: bonding and oxytocin. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, 9.

Ruud E. (2013). Can music serve as a “cultural immunogen”? An explorative study. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being8, 20597.

Sapouna, L. & Pamer, E. R. (2016). The transformative potential of the arts in mental health recovery – an Irish research project. Arts & Health, 8 (1), 1-12. Available via Researchgate:

Schladt, T. M., Nordmann, G. C., Emilius, R., Kudielka, B. M., de Jong, T. R., & Neumann, I. D. (2017). Choir versus Solo Singing: Effects on Mood, and Salivary Oxytocin and Cortisol Concentrations. Frontiers in human neuroscience11, 430.

Stewart, N. A. J., & Lonsdale, A. J. (2016). It’s better together: The psychological benefits of singing in a choir. Psychology of Music, 44 (6), 1240–1254. Available via Researchgate: stewart2016better.pdf (

Taylor, C. T., Pearlstein, S. L., & Stein, M. B. (2017). The affective tie that binds: Examining the contribution of positive emotions and anxiety to relationship formation in social anxiety disorder. Journal of anxiety disorders49, 21–30.

Weinstein, D., Launay, J., Pearce, E., Dunbar, R. I., & Stewart, L. (2016). Group music performance causes elevated pain thresholds and social bonding in small and large groups of singers. Evolution and human behavior : official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society37(2), 152–158.

Zumeta, L., Basabe, N., Wlodarczyk, A., Bobowik, M. & Páez, D. (2016). Shared flow and positive collective gatherings. Anales de Psicología, 32 (3), 717-727. Available from:

There are also Restricted-access research papers where you are able to view the abstract and key information about the study or literature review:

Baumeister, R. F. & Leary, M. R.  (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117 (3), 497-529.

Bird, V., Leamy, M., Tew, J., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J., & Slade, M. (2014). Fit for purpose? Validation of a conceptual framework for personal recovery with current mental health consumers. The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry48(7), 644–653.

Brom, C., Buchtova, M., Sisler, V., Dechterenko, F., Palme, R., Glenk, L. M. (2014). Flow, social interaction anxiety and salivary cortisol responses in serious games: A quasi-experimental study. Computers & Education, 79, 69-100.

Chiu, C. C., Johnson, J. K., Villero, O. & Nápoles, A. (2016). A Qualitative Study Exploring the Impact of a Community Choir Intervention on Mood in Diverse Older Adults with Depressive Symptoms. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24(3), S1, s115-s116.

Cohen, S. & Ashby Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, Social Support, and the Buffering Hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98 (2), 31.

Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience.: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.

De Souza Cateano, K. A., Ferreira, I. M. F., Mariotto, L. G. S., Vidal, C. L., Neufeld, C. B. & Dos Reis, A. C. (2017). Choir singing as an activity to manage anxiety and temporomandibular disorders: reports from a Brazilian sample. Psychology of Music, 1-13. First Published November 16, 2017

Durrant, C. (2005). Shaping Identity Through Choral Activity: Singers’ And Conductors’ Perceptions. Research Studies in Music Education Number 24, 88-98.

Lamont, A., Murray, M., Hale, R. & Wright-Bevans, K. (2017). Singing in later life: The anatomy of a community choir. Psychology of Music, 1–16.

Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J., & Slade, M. (2011). Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science199(6), 445–452.

Páez, D., Rimé, B., Basabe, N., Wlodarczyk, A., & Zumeta, L. (2015). Psychosocial effects of perceived emotional synchrony in collective gatherings. Journal of personality and social psychology108(5), 711–729.

Parker, E. C. (2010). Exploring student experiences of belonging within an urban high school choral ensemble: an action research study. Music Education Research, 12 (4), 339-352.

Robinson, K., Kennedy, N. & Harmon, D. (2012). The Flow Experiences of People With Chronic Pain. Occupation, Participation and Health, 32 (3), 104-112.

Sanal, A. M. & Gorsev, S. (2014). Psychological and physiological effects of singing in a choir. Psychology of Music, 42 (3), 420–429.

Tavormina, M. G., Tavormina, R., & Nemoianni, E. (2014). The singing-group: a new therapic rehabilitation for mood desorders. Psychiatria Danubina26 Suppl 1, 173–177.

Valentine, E. & Evans, C. (2001). The effects of solo singing, choral singing and swimming on mood and physiological indices. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 74, 115-120.

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