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Music as Therapy

Mental health is growing to be just as respected as physical health, as more and more people are coming forward with their struggles as well as advice on how to heal.

An introduction to mental health

According to a study by Citation Twenge in 2019, rates of major depressive episodes in the last year increased by:

- 52% in people aged 12 to 17.

- 63% among young adults 18 –25.

Serious psychological distress in the last month and suicide-related outcomes in the last year also increased among young adults aged 18 –25 from 2008 –2017 (with a 71% increase in serious psychological distress).

Depression is therefore widely common within the UK as well as around the world, and also one of the largest causes of death. Anxiety is also prevalent in the UK as another study by Mental Health UK stated over 8 million people in the UK experience an anxiety disorder.

Due to these striking statistics, it is imperative that mental health is talked about within all age groups, cultures and societies. These conversations can lead to identifying the causes that spark these feelings and how people struggling can find support.


There can be a multitude of reasons that cause our generation to be prone to having issues with mental health. Social media shows to have a major negative effect on the happiness of young adults.

“Spending more than two hours per day on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression)” – Royal Society for Public Health

The negative effects of social media are constantly being repeated by researchers, as well as friends and family. Constantly being exposed to other people's lives allows for negative comparison, leading to multitudes of mental illnesses

Schools in the UK have also been reported for not taking the steps to prevent this, leading to a decline in mental health.

“Three in five (62 per cent) young people received no support from school for their mental health.” - Mind

As well as reducing the amount of social media that we consume and educating schools on how to support students with mental illnesses, there are thankfully many other methods that can improve mental health. Therapy, medication, meditation, journaling, talking to friends and family, are just some of the ways in which mental well-being can be supported. However, for some these can be quite daunting methods to explore and so doing little bits at a time may be a better way to gradually improve their health.

Prescribing music

Music is an instrument that plays a role in everyone’s life.

A study investigating the relationship between music and chemicals released in the brain found that “levels of dopamine were found to be up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed”. - BBC
Another study found that “patients who listened to classical music benefitted from a small decrease in blood pressure while listening, which would ease the work rate of the heart. - BHF

Psychologists have identified benefits of listening to music and developed a new style of therapy. Music therapy is exactly what it says on the tin – it uses music to help people improve their well being. This therapy includes making music, singing, writing songs, dancing listening, and discussing music. These practices can easily be integrated into everyday life, improving mood and wellbeing.

As well as listening to music, learning an instrument has been found to have even more benefits:

Learning an instrument has been proven to improve mental health also, studies showing that “Those aged ≥ 65 years who participated in playing music reported improved self-esteem, greater independence, and fewer feelings of isolation.” - Hays and Minichiello
Other research showed that “playing a musical instrument can reverse multiple components of the human stress response on the genomic level.”- YAMAHA

The sense of accomplishment after learning a new song, playing for others boosting self-esteem, confidence in learning new things, all lead to these findings of an improvement in mental well-being.

Music really does make you happy

To summarise, pick up a guitar or treat yourself to a pair of decent quality headphones, because it could be the little bit of help you were hoping for.

To get you started, I have created a playlist of songs that are my absolute favourites. There is something for everyone on there, but you should definitely make one too! Cherry Tomatoes


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