Can singing help me relax? The effect of music on perceived stress


  • Morgan McCloy MacEwan University


Listening to music can induce relaxation, especially when participants select their own preferred music. However, the role of singing in relaxation is less clear. Some studies have examined group singing, or used singing to induce stress, but it remains unclear if singing in the absence of social stressors can decrease perceived stress. The current study examined this question. Participants (N = 392) rated their current mood before and after a stress inducing reflection task, then were randomly assigned to one of four music interventions: singing vs. listening to a self-selected vs. experimenter-selected song. Following this, participants completed another mood rating, along with questionnaires assessing musical sophistication, personality, demographics, and experience during the intervention. Results revealed a larger decrease in stress after singing compared to listening, although stress decreased significantly in both cases (both ps < .001). Our findings suggest that under certain conditions, singing may be slightly more effective than music listening for stress relief, and that the greatest decreases in stress occur for liked songs. This research is not only beneficial to students managing stress, but has implications for the wider population handling stress during the pandemic. An additional exploratory study examined arts-engagement during COVID-19 and its relationship to stress, anxiety, and coping strategies. Most participants (95.7%) engaged with the arts; relaxation being the most commonly reported feeling (82%). Increases in stress and anxiety correlated with the use of avoidant coping (both ps < .01), but not approach or arts coping. Future directions of these findings will be discussed.

Department: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Corrigall