U.K. Music and Music for Dementia U.K. just issued a report: Power of Music: A plan for harnessing music to improve our health, wellbeing and communities.
I will attempt to highlight the points here. (U.K. spelling throughout!)
First of all there is a forward by Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. First, stop there. Did you get that title? A Secretary of State for Culture - we have soooo far to go here in the States. From her comments: “Since arriving at DCMS, I have seen first-hand the
positive impact music and the creative sectors can have to improve lives. That is why we put the creative industries at the heart of our COVID-19 recovery plan and committed £2 billion to the Culture Recovery Fund during the pandemic.
Creative industries at the heart of pandemic recovery! Two billion pounds!
From Over-Prescribing to Social Prescribing
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Chief Executive UK Music and Grace Meadows, Campaign Director Music for Dementia noted in their opening statements that “there is an urgent need to reimagine health and social care in their country, and the need to do things differently is already being recognised by their health system. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) ‘Good for you, good for us, good for everybody’ plan, published in September 2021, recently set out a framework for reducing overprescribing to make patient care better and safer. Importantly, the report highlights the need to build upon important initiatives, such as social prescribing, to tackle the serious problem of overprescribing in health systems which has dramatically grown over the last 25 years. We know that music has been effective in this area with music therapy reducing the need for anti-psychotic medication in 67% of people living with dementia. This has been further reinforced by a commitment from the DHSC Secretary
of State for four million people to benefit from social prescribing by 2024. This type of culture change around how we manage long term conditions is critical if we are to reduce the reliance on medicine.”
The ROI of Social Prescribing
Music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia, significantly reducing the spend on anti-psychotic medication. Musical interventions can also create a social return on investment (ROI).
In a randomised controlled trial, participants receiving music therapy, in addition to standard care, showed greater improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms and general functioning at their three-month follow-up.
Music can ease stress in both physiological and psychological outcomes and for patients undergoing surgeries and colonoscopies.
Musical patterns can help provide a means of self-regulation of thoughts and processes for those on the autism spectrum. Research from the University of British Columbia found music students perform better in school than non-musical peers.
Social Experiences & Challenges
Researchers at the University of Oxford found that group singing not only helps forge social bonds, it also does so particularly quickly, acting as an excellent and cost-effective icebreaker. Research proves that when you listen to music you like, your brain releases dopamine, a “feel- good” neurotransmitter.
Listening to music after surgery, and even during, may ease pain and the need for pain medication. Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout. Playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once — especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortex.
Music therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects for the non-pharmacological treatment of motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Music is proposed to be beneficial for relaxation in people with cardiovascular disease. Evidence suggests that people who engage with the arts are more likely to lead healthier lives, including eating healthily and staying physically active, irrespective of their socioeconomic status and social capital.
Sage Stream on Track
I was heartened from a section of the report that highlighted Covid music interventions as Sage Stream (www.sagestream.live) was created in that period and for that reason.
Data from University College London suggests that people who spent 30 minutes or more each day during the pandemic on arts activities such as listening to music have lower reported rates of depression and anxiety and greater life satisfaction. In a separate study, an online questionnaire administered in 11 countries asked participants to rate the relevance of wellbeing goals during the pandemic, and the effectiveness of different activities in obtaining these goals. Music was found to be the most effective activity for three out of five wellbeing goals: enjoyment, expressing and processing negative emotions, and self-connection. Another study from Spain found participating in musical activities during the pandemic has been associated with reduced anxiety and increased subjective wellbeing.
Given the slow emergence from the pandemic and a new normal, these solutions are here to stay and are very much vaccines against social isolation.
Survey Says - There is a need for:
Collaboration and leadership
Many respondents highlighted the importance of working together to achieve the best outcome rather than prioritising one body over another or focussing too much on one sector. For government this means getting more engagement from ministers across different departments and encouraging a cross-government response. For the music sector this means involving all aspects of music, not just music therapists and music practitioners who are skilled in working in health and social care sectors.
Funding an umbrella body to take this on or oversee bringing these sectors together was cited as a solution by many. Funding should be used to invest in training and equipment, including ensuring care settings have access to music and Wi-Fi. Long-term funding for music therapy and therapeutic music interventions through health and social care budgets was highlighted as key.
There is a need to change attitudes towards how we value music in society. Music is often valued as an economic driver, or a signifier of how much cultural activity is on offer. Within health and social care it is seen as nice to have in health and social care settings rather than a necessity. The same with education. And yet, music is something we all cherish but we do not feel it is something we can all engage with confidently beyond listening to it.
When respondents were asked to rank what more the music sector and government should do to support education and training in music and health and social care contexts, developing mandatory training programmes for care professionals (e.g. carers, link workers, social workers) came first.
Education and awareness
More needs to be done to highlight the benefits of music with the general public. A number of people expressed a desire for a public campaign to showcase the benefits of music forwellbeing so more people could appreciate its use in health and social care, for example a day of celebration or a cross-media (online, broadcast, print) campaign. Music was compared to sport, where there have been many high-profile campaigns in recent years.
Community and access
The pandemic showed us you can maintain community and connection through music. In the height of the first lockdown people danced to music at a safe distance on the street with their neighbours and in Italy, people sang from their balconies to boost morale.
Demonstrate leadership by appointing a Power of Music Commissioner, setting up a cross-government taskforce and establishing a cross-sector consortium.
Mobilise support for and engagement with the power of music through a national campaign and creation of an online resource centre.
Combine existing funding and seek new focused investment to make music more accessible for all.
Integrate music into our health, care and education to unlock its full potential to support our national health and wellbeing.