(Awaken | Jeremy Reynolds) To boost your immune system, doctors recommend a healthy diet that embraces fruits and veggies and has no vitamin deficiencies. But how about a little Prokofiev?
Can music boost your immune system?
Sound like quackery? It’s not. Numerous studies, including a 2019 review in the journal Annual Research & Review in Biology, have found that both performing and listening to music can have a significant impact on the immune system. And as COVID-19 fosters global tension and fear, everyone is looking for ways to mitigate that stress and boost the immune system to ward off viral infections.
“Certainly music has an impact on the brain, and anxiety and stress impact the immune system,” said Andrew Levin, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Levin, an amateur trumpet player who performs with several local ensembles, said he’s not an expert in the ways music interacts with the brain. But it works for him.
“Music is a part of my stress release paradigm,” he said, adding that he hasn’t had much time lately to play. “We know that music can affect brain states, so I don’t believe it is much of a stretch to say that music can indirectly affect our physiology, and there is research that supports this notion.”
According to a 2013 review in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity, the emotional and psychological effects of listening to music have direct impact on biomarkers and hormone levels. Immunoglobulin A, which plays a crucial role in immune functions, was cited as being “particularly responsive to music.” There is also general consensus among researchers that listening to music reduces cortisol levels, with one 2007 study in the Journal of Music Therapy by A.J. Ferrer stating that music can be “as effective as diazepam” in reducing vital signs of anxiety.
So, does it matter what sort of music you’re listening to?
It does, but only whether you like the song. Prior associations and relationships with different types of music affect how your body responds. In general, research indicates that “relaxing music” (i.e. slower tempo, peaceful music) is better for calming frayed nerves, decreasing blood pressure and respiration and settling the heart rate.
Curiously, while major music streaming companies including Spotify and Bandcamp report dips in usage during the pandemic, classical music streaming has seen a bump, along with folk and children’s music.