Going to Concerts and Experiencing Live Music Can Make Us Healthier & Happier, a New Psychology Study Confirms

Image by Niels Ept­ing, via Flickr Com­mons

It can some­times seem like so much qual­i­ta­tive sci­ence con­firms what we already know through expe­ri­ence and folk wis­dom. But that does not make such research redun­dant. Instead, it sets the stage for more detailed inves­ti­ga­tions into spe­cif­ic caus­es and effects, and can lead to more refined under­stand­ing of gen­er­al phe­nom­e­na. For exam­ple, “a new study out of Aus­tralia,” reports CNN, “con­firms what we prob­a­bly already knew,” by con­clud­ing that if you want to be hap­pi­er, you should get out more.

Specif­i­cal­ly, you should get out to con­certs and music fes­ti­vals and dance your you-know-what off. The Aus­tralian researchers found that “peo­ple who active­ly engaged with music through danc­ing and attend­ing events like con­certs and musi­cals report­ed a high­er lev­el of sub­jec­tive well­be­ing.” The March, 2017 study, cheek­i­ly titled “If You’re Hap­py and You Know It: Music Engage­ment and Sub­jec­tive Well­be­ing,” defines the lat­ter phrase as “the sci­en­tif­ic psy­cho­log­i­cal term for gen­er­al mood ‘hap­pi­ness,’ which is pos­i­tive, sta­ble, and con­sis­tent over time.”

Sub­jec­tive well­be­ing (SWB), although a self-report­ed mea­sure, helps psy­chol­o­gists iden­ti­fy effec­tive ther­a­pies for depres­sion and mood dis­or­ders. Engag­ing mean­ing­ful­ly with music is one of them, and one needn’t be a musi­cian to reap the ben­e­fits. While “pro­duc­ing music and per­form­ing encour­age self-explo­ration, emo­tion­al expres­sion, self-esteem and con­fi­dence,” the study’s authors write, inter­act­ing with music as a fan is also “asso­ci­at­ed with high­er mood when con­sid­ered in terms of acti­va­tion and valence.”

Sim­ply con­sum­ing record­ed music, how­ev­er, will not have the same ben­e­fits. While “recent tech­no­log­i­cal advances” and stream­ing ser­vices have “increased the avail­abil­i­ty of and acces­si­bil­i­ty to music… engag­ing with music extends beyond just pas­sive lis­ten­ing.” In large part, the active par­tic­i­pa­tion in a music scene—as part of a fan com­mu­ni­ty or fes­ti­val audi­ence, for example—shows pos­i­tive out­comes because of the “social com­po­nent of music engage­ment.” Lis­ten­ing by one­self “may improve phys­i­cal health and emo­tion­al well­be­ing.” Lis­ten­ing “in the com­pa­ny of oth­ers is asso­ci­at­ed with stronger pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences.”

As the site Live for Live Music puts it, “live music uni­ver­sal­ly low­ers stress lev­elsincreas­es social bonds while decreas­ing lev­els of pain, and can even phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly cause peo­ple to get “skin-gasms.” And if that’s not rea­son enough to get tick­ets to see your favs, I don’t know what is. One would also hope the study makes a con­vinc­ing case for fund­ing live music as a men­tal health ini­tia­tive. Unless you live in a city with lots of free con­certs, the expense of such events can be pro­hib­i­tive. At least in Aus­tralia, the researchers note, “attend­ing musi­cal events is cost­ly, and may be a priv­i­lege afford­ed to those who earn a high­er income.”

Susan Per­ry at Min­npost sums up a few oth­er lim­i­ta­tions of the study, such as its lack of data on fre­quen­cy of atten­dance, and that it does not “dif­fer­en­ti­ate between peo­ple who are musi­cal­ly tal­ent­ed and those who aren’t.” Nonethe­less, one par­tic­u­lar find­ing should have you shed­ding inhi­bi­tions to increase your SWB. “Dancers,” Per­ry sum­ma­rizes, were “more like­ly than non-dancers to be hap­py,” as were those who sing along.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Punk & Heavy Met­al Music Makes Lis­ten­ers Hap­py and Calm, Not Aggres­sive, Accord­ing to New Aus­tralian Study

Play­ing an Instru­ment Is a Great Work­out For Your Brain: New Ani­ma­tion Explains Why

Music in the Brain: Sci­en­tists Final­ly Reveal the Parts of Our Brain That Are Ded­i­cat­ed to Music

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Gorgino says:

    When I was a young boy my father took me to the city to see a march­ing band and he said to me “son will take my hand in mar­riage?” I said no

  • Eli Richardson says:

    It’s inter­est­ing to know that peo­ple who attend live con­certs are hap­pi­er and have improved moods. My girl­friend and I are think­ing about going to a con­cert next year, but we’re not sure if it’s worth the mon­ey, so I believe that read­ing your arti­cle will change our per­spec­tive. Thanks for explain­ing how lis­ten­ing to our favorite band sur­round­ed by oth­er’s com­pa­ny could enhance our expe­ri­ence.

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