A study has found that singing in a group can have positive effects on mental as well as physical health.

Singing in group has the advantage of feeling “belonging to a group,” according to researchers from the University of East Anglia, who undertook the research as the ‘Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO)’ project.

“The combination of singing and social engagement produced an ongoing feeling of belonging and well-being. Attendance provided them with structure, support and contact that improved functioning and mood,” noted the researchers.

In the study, the researchers looked at interview data from 20 participants of the SYHO project, focus groups with organisers, and with workshop leaders.

The initiative started out in 2005 at a psychiatric hospital  for mental health patients in Norwich, Norfolk before becoming a community project. The sing group activities include workshops and four weekly meet-ups to sing along.

As a note, participants of the project don’t have to be good at singing. The organizers noted that mental health and illness weren’t the focus of the workshop, but simply an ‘opportunity to sing together.’

The workshop also made use of a SYHO Songbook, comprised of uplifting songs and harmonies - short and simple, and included foreign language songs.

“All interviewees reported positive effects on their mental health from participation in singing together,” wrote the researchers.

For some it represented one component of a wider programme of support. For others it stood out as key to their recovery or the maintenance of health, the researchers further noted.

The singing project was able to provide a positive change in mood among participants, and even resulted in some physical improvements, such as rehabilitation and learning how to breathe better.

Openness was a key theme during the interviews.

“The social and self-help aspects of the SYHO model were also cited as important opportunities for developing social skills in a safe environment, as well as rediscovering work-related skills,” concluded the researchers.

Group singing could very well be a part of mental health recovery ethos, “because it was about life beyond illness.” MIMS