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Choir-singing helps the immune system fight disease

Whether it’s singing along in your car, in the shower or along to the radio at work, it’s long been known that singing can drastically improve your mood, but new research conducted by a team at Imperial College London, University College London and the Royal College of Music has found that singing for an hour can dramatically help you fight disease.

The researchers found that singing for just one hour resulted in significant reductions in the stress hormones like cortisol, but also that it increased the levels of immune proteins which help the body fight off serious illnesses like cancer.

Doctors have long suspected that reducing stress and anxiety has a better long-term effect on the immune system, helping the body build its resources for fighting illnesses and disease. This explains why when you’re stressed or under pressure, you’re more likely to become ill.

Choir members gave the research team samples of their saliva before singing for an hour, and then again just after. The saliva samples were then analysed to see whether there had been any chances in the number of hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors.

The charity Tenovus Cancer Care was behind the project. Ian Lewis, director of research and policy, and co-author of the research said: “These are really exciting findings. We have been building a body of evidence over the past six years to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, and now we can see it has biological effects too.”

“We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing. It’s really exciting and could enhance the way we support people with cancer in the future.”

Tenovus are also heading up a project called Sing With Us, which supports choir groups for cancer patients and their loved ones all across Wales. If you’re interested, you can find out more here

Dr Daisy Fancourt, Research Associate at the Centre for Performance Science and co-author for the study said: “Many people affected by cancer can experience psychological difficulties such as stress, anxiety and depression. Research has demonstrated that these can suppress immune activity, at a time when patients need as much support as they can get from their immune system. This research is exciting as it suggests that an activity as simple as singing could reduce some of this stress-induced suppression, helping to improve wellbeing and quality of life amongst patients and put them in the best position to receive treatment.”

This news follows a study done last summer, which showed that people that sing in their car tend to be happier, healthier and tend to last longer. So if life’s got you down, make sure you grab a friend and whether you enjoy belting out the classics in your car or as part of a choir, and a sing-a-long should improve your mood.

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