Live music reduces stress hormones according to new research

The study is based on measuring levels of the hormone cortisol in attendees at classical concerts

The results of a new study from the Centre for Performance Science in London shows live music reduces levels of stress hormones.

The centre, which is a partnership between The Royal College of Music and Imperial College London, measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in attendees at two concerts by composer Eric Whitacre, checking levels of the hormone through saliva samples before the show, during the interval and after the show had finished.

Measuring levels for 117 attendees, the research showed reductions in levels of the hormone in attendees across the board. The abstract for the associated paper explains the experiment ran twice, four months apart, in two separate venues. The programme was kept the same, in order to replicate listening experiences, but participants varied.


Researcher Daisy Fancourt said of the study “This is the first preliminary evidence that attending a cultural event can have an impact on endocrine activity.”

NMERichard Johnson/NME

Fancourt continues: “It is of note that none of these biological changes were associated with age, musical experience or familiarity with the music being performed. This suggests there is a universal response to concert attendance among audience members.”

“This study opens up the question of how engaging with music and the arts in cultural settings can influence biological and psychological states and, consequently, the potential of cultural events to enhance people’s broader health and well-being,” she adds.

While cortisol does no harm in moderate doses, sustained levels of the hormone have been linked to health issues like heart difficulties, diabetes and impotence.

A previous study from Spotify had associated Adele‘s ‘Someone Like You’ with stress relief, finding it to be the best song for nervous fliers.

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