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Singing Improves Mental Health In Cancer Survivors

choirThe Welsh cancer charity Tenovus and Cardiff University, both based in the UK, have reported that participation in a choir improves a number of quality of life factors for cancer survivors and their carers. Check the end of this report for a link to download a free copy of the original study.

In an effort to create a community for cancer survivors and their carers, Tenovus established the choir, Sing for Life, in 2010. More than just a support group, the aim of the choir was to improve quality of life and emotional well-being in a more social setting.

In a pilot study to determine the effects of the choir on mental and physical health, Nichola Gale, part of a team from Cardiff University led by Robert van Deursen, in collaboration with Ian Lewis from Tenovus, invited participants of the Tenovus choir to take part in a research project which monitored their attitudes and health over a three month period. Emotional and physical effects of participating in a choir have been studied before, but this work is the first to specifically target cancer survivors and their carers.

Participants were asked to complete three questionnaires on quality of life (QoL, SF-36), anxiety and depression (HAD) and fatigue (MFI-20) both before and after the three month choir experience. Since singing requires controlled respiration, their lung capacity was also monitored. In addition, at the end of the three month period, 10 out of the 23 finishing participants were interviewed in order to gain additional insight into the perceived effects of the choir.

Analysis of the questionnaires revealed an improvement in factors ranging from vitality to mental health and reduced anxiety and depression after the three month period. There was no change in the level of fatigue or change in lung capacity, but there was a trend of increased maximal expiratory static mouth pressure (MEP), a test of the strength of respiratory muscles.

The perceived benefit of the choir was quite clear based on data from the interviewed participants. They commented on the benefits of having a common goal and looking forward to the performances. Overall, participation in the choir lifted the mood of many of the participants and gave them a sense of achievement.

The results of this pilot study are generally in agreement with earlier studies on the effects of singing. It was suggested that participation in a choir could benefit sufferers of many chronic diseases, not just cancer survivors. Based on these results, a larger study is warranted.

Material adapted from ecancermedicalscience.

Download / Reference
Reference: NS Gale, S Enright, C Reagon, I Lewis and R van Deursen (2012). A pilot investigation of quality of life and lung function following choral singing in cancer survivors and their carers. ecancer, 4, 261 DOI:

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