Stress and Illness

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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End of life treatment is notoriously difficult for patients as it confirms the existence of death. This proximity to dying can prove distressing as it may conflict with existential denial and, subsequently, would lead to a stress reaction. When patients are in the morbid grip of Palliative Care even the slightest illness or injury may signal the end, which would lead to elevated feelings of anxiety and physiological breakdown (Archie, Bruera, & Cohen, 2013).

Attempting to combat the former, researchers were able to prove the beneficial effect of music therapy in combatting pain and anxiety, as well as rudimentary quality of life (Archie et al.

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, 2013). Although the researchers were interested in identifying a specific subsection of cancer patients and their responses, the original results showed a correlation between music and the stress response; less severe reactions via musical stimulation (Archie et al., 2013).

The second premise surrounds the concept that music improves social interaction and consequently reduces stress. Artists can connect individuals with their musical creativity which can be seen at music festivals, street corners, and grunge venues. This unifying vector allows for a collective reduction is stress as scientists have already proven social interaction to be incredibly vital in doing so (Ozbay, Faith et al., 2007). On the side of physical effects, Swedish researchers found that “”music may stimulate specific regions of the brain, causing favorable changes in hormone levels or immune function”” their study highlighting the cultural aspect of music and how it translates in a physical sense (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 2011).

Researchers at Stanford provide the evidentiary basis for this claim: slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states (Saarman, 2006). This reflection can explain the obvious exuberance displayed at pop-culture music festivals as the interaction, combined with the physiological response to the music, contributes to a defined buffer between prior stressors and the pursuit of pleasurable experiences.

Differentiating between music’s effects may lead down a rabbit-hole of science, but what effects could music have on its creator? The Mozart effect is the clearest proponent for the idea that music garners intelligence (Jenkins, J. S., 2001), however it does not take mood or stress reactivity into account.

The actual creation, or practice, of music paints a different picture as it requires a rudimentary skill; whereas listening to an iPhone is second nature and requires a simple gesture. The voluntary practice of an instrument “”may be able to help alleviate some [adverse] psychological conditions”” if there is a current stressor that threatens to elicit a stress reaction (Ghasemi, et al., 2017). The latter represents an unsubstantiated claim; however, a reputable American University has caught up to the power curve.

The University of California-Los Angeles has started a campus wide initiative which hosted live musical performances that encouraged musicians within the peer group to join in (Chaney). Although research-driven, the program had the intention of “”promoting the well-being of students on campus in the process”” while also recognizing that music unleashes creativity”” for the students who were able to display their virtuosity (Chaney). Listening and practicing music are two different things, yet they both contribute to the same phycological effects when combatting stress (Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 2011).

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Stress and Illness. (2020, Mar 12). Retrieved from