Music and wellbeing

The health and wellbeing benefits of participation in the arts are now widely accepted and the NHS is adopting ‘social prescribing’ (where GPs can ‘prescribe’ arts activities in the community as well as the usual medical interventions). But where do leisure-time music groups fit into this?

Research on music and wellbeing

  1. Running since 2018, HEartS is a major public health study investigating the health, economic and social impacts of the arts led by the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
  2. The main objective of the project is to advance our understanding and ways of documenting the scope of the arts in benefiting people’s lives and impacting on society at a national level.

    Fill in the national HEartS music survey on music and wellbeing at:

  3. Set up in 2018, the research initiative the MARCH Network focuses on society, culture and the community – including the arts, culture, heritage sites, libraries, green spaces, community centres, social clubs, community associations and volunteer groups – and the role these  play in enhancing public mental health and wellbeing, preventing mental illness, and supporting people living with mental health conditions.
  4. Also in 2018, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published its report on the social impact of participation in arts and sport

Leisure-time music and dementia

Projects in the community can play a vital role in bringing music to everyone living with dementia. So Many Beauties is an Arts Council England-funded project, which gives people living with dementia the opportunity to create new music, which included a phase in which volunteer leisure-time singers and musicians received training and support in order to bring music to care homes in their own communities.

Chiltern Music Therapy, a not-for-profit social enterprise, provides music therapy to people of all ages, including those with learning disabilities or additional needs due to conditions such as Parkinson’s, or acquired disability following a stroke.

They are working with Making Music to see whether some of their clients, as a follow-up from the work they do with them, might then enjoy joining one of our member groups. What would this involve? And would it be beneficial for the individual and the group? To explore these issues, Making Music is now trialling this with some of their clients, and we’ll report on this in late 2019.

The Dementia Inclusive Singing Network, launched in May 2019 and funded by the Life Changes Trust and the Baring Foundation, is a project in Scotland that aims to ensure people living with dementia can benefit from all the positive health impacts of regularly singing in a group.

Making Music has teamed up with Age Scotland and Scottish Care to support Luminate (Scotland’s creative ageing organisation) to deliver the project over two years. Making Music is aiming to develop and provide bespoke support for choirs whose work focuses on people living with dementia and their carers, as well as supporting community choirs who would like to become dementia inclusive. 

The network will offer advice and support, resources and training for choir leaders and organisers and enable connections between choirs so that skills and experience can be shared. Pilot networking and training events will be rolled out this autumn in different locations across Scotland. 

A website will provide information on resources, news, events, training and more. In the meantime, you can register on the Luminate website to receive email news updates from Luminate.

An opportunity or a burden?

Making Music is working to understand whether plans for social prescribing on the NHS present an interesting opportunity for leisure-time music groups to welcome new people into their groups and connect with their community in a new way, or whether this will result in processes that are too much for a volunteer-run music group to cope with.

We are also looking to see whether how to give groups the appropriate support, guidance and toolkits in order to make the right decision for their groups.

Check back on this page for updates on our work in this area, and visit the Making Music evidence bank for more research on music and wellbeing: