The surprising health benefits of joining a choir

The West Point Glee Club performs at “Music and the Spoken Word” with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in commemoration of Veterans Day in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

The West Point Glee Club performs at “Music and the Spoken Word” with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in commemoration of Veterans Day in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In a choir, every voice counts. Soprano, alto, bass or tenor, each individual’s voice combined makes a unifying and awe-inspiring sound.

For centuries, people have enjoyed participating in the art of joining voices to create music.

Human collaboration, the very essence of a choir, can have many benefits, especially for mental health.

Studies have found that singing in groups helps give people purpose and connection. It has been proven to reduce anxiety and reduce lonely feelings and depression due to its unifying nature.

“There’s an increasing amount of evidence that singing releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine — the ‘happy’ chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel good about yourself. Scientists believe that’s one of the reasons why people report being on a high during choir sessions and continuing to feel positive, uplifted and motivated afterwards,” per Opera North.

The “Sing With Us” study is just one of many that delve into how singing in groups can improve health.

Researchers enrolled 193 participants who all had a connection with cancer — patients, oncologists and caregivers — to form a choir.

But rather than stress about their worries, they chose to sing and take a break from the struggles that were awaiting them outside of the music hall.

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The study found that performing together increased the amount of immune proteins in cancer patients and reduced stress hormones.

“The longitudinal aspect of the study showed that singing significantly decreased anxiety and increased well-being for carers and improved self-efficacy and self-esteem for those who had been bereaved,” the study said.

Hazel Hardy, one of the participants who was diagnosed with breast cancer, told The Washington Post that joining “Sing With Us” gave her a “new kind of family.”

Sing Up Foundation is an organization that encourages young adults to join in choirs to create a sense of belonging and purpose in such a pivotal time in their life.

Their vision is to use the benefits of singing to combat the harrowing statistic that “50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24 … . The benefits of singing, especially in groups, are wide-ranging with extensive research supporting the physiological, social, psychological and behavioral benefits.”

According to The Washington Post, choir singing lost a lot of its popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2019, some 54 million Americans sang in choirs, and those who did were found to be more optimistic, more likely to vote, less lonely, possessed stronger relationships and were more likely to contribute positively to their communities than non-singers,” the article said.

Participating in choirs creates diversity in voices through a shared human experience.

“It brings me joy to think about,” Hardy said when reflecting on her time in the choir. “It was more than a choir. It was something that brought people together.”