Patrick Lawrence dives deep into the intersection of music and health

From cognitive benefits to mental wellness, Patrick Lawrence lists the five reasons why music is crucial for health. 

At first glance, you might think the relationship between music and health is an obscure one.

You needn’t look further than Patrick Lawrence’s latest EP, however, to realise that the two fields are inherently connected. Released earlier this month, Nostalgic for Now spans both Lawrence’s stellar artistry and his background as medical doctor. 

Patrick Lawrence

The six-track project sees Lawrence reflect on burnout, utilising his medical career to showcase the role that music plays in health and vice versa.

Below, Lawrence dives even deeper into this intersection, from the cognitive and mental health benefits of music to its crucial role in overall wellbeing. 

During his time in hospitals, Lawrence has realised the powerful role that music plays in health and wellbeing. Catch Patrick Lawrence’s five reasons why music is important for health below, and scroll down to listen to Nostalgic for Now. 

The Science of Music

We often experience significant pleasure while listening to, writing and playing music.

I can definitely attest to that – while writing my latest EP Nostalgic for Now there were so many breakthrough moments (for example, coming up with the acoustic guitar intro in Joy in the Journey) that created that euphoric feeling!

When we listen to music, our brains release neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin which are involved in reward, motivation and pleasure.

Listening to music also reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This is why we experience a sense of euphoria when we listen to music, even when listening to sad songs.

Patrick Lawrence

Music and Wellbeing

There was an Australian study a few years ago that showed that in the thousand people they interviewed, those who danced to music or went to live concerts had a higher reported overall feeling of wellbeing than those who did not.

Another study showed that singing in a choir is associated with a higher “quality of life”. Music can have a positive impact on stress levels.

Music therapy, a type of treatment provided by musical therapists, has been shown to reduce stress significantly (up to 28%, or around a third).

I have definitely seen this in practice – in my hospital there is often a therapist walking around with a guitar, and the patients are often visibly less stressed after singing songs from when they were younger, that remind them of a different time.

Listening to music can also have beneficial effects to the immune system, by reducing the numbers of inflammatory cells and signals in the body.

Two separate studies have shown that singing in a choir or joining a drum circle can slow the age-related decline in the immune system. This is thought to be due to less stress, as stress has a major influence on the immune system.

Patrick Lawrence

Cognitive Benefits of Music

Many people listen to music while they are studying or working – but does this in fact improve focus? Results are mixed, though several studies have shown that listening to music improves attentiveness.

Certain types of music are associated with better levels of concentration – particularly music that is more acoustic, less danceable and with fewer lyrics.

What genres of music should we be listening to while focusing? One study showed that classical and jazz music outperformed other genres like dance, rock and R&B when it came to attention levels.

In fact, one study from Nature magazine demonstrated that listening to Mozart’s piano sonata temporarily increases the listener’s IQ by 8-9 points (the so-called “Mozart Effect”).

Patrick Lawrence

Music and Mental Health

Engaging with music in some way has been demonstrated to improve mood, self-confidence and self esteem. Listening to music has also been shown to reduce anxiety in patients before surgery, as well as reducing levels of anxiety in patients with cancer.

Personalised music therapy has been shown in several studies to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. This provides promise for a unique, non-medication treatment to help support patients with mental health conditions.

I wrote my track Half Life about my experiences with severe stress and burnout at work, and found the writing process to be an incredibly cathartic and healing experience.

Patrick Lawrence

Music and Disease

Music therapy (provided by a trained therapist) has been proven to have a positive effect in a range of medical conditions.

For example, this treatment has been shown to improve walking ability (gait) in patients with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Music can improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia, improve self-reported pain in patients with chronic pain, and slightly improve the memory of patients with early dementia.

Now that you’ve heard about some of the ways that music can improve our health, I encourage you to find your own rhythm – picking up an instrument, joining a choir or attending more live concerts – and take that step toward better health and wellbeing.