Study investigates role of music in regulating emotions in pandemic and beyond

Siddharth Bhogra/Unsplash

A new study published in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications investigated whether musical engagement is an effective strategy for socio-emotional coping during lockdown.

For the study, researchers collected demographically representative samples from six countries on three continents during the first lockdown in April and May 2020. More than 5,000 people from Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Italy, and the United States were asked in an online survey about how they engaged with music during the crisis. More than half of respondents reported using music to cope with emotional and social stressors.

People who experienced increased negative emotions due to the pandemic were found to engage with music primarily to regulate depression, fear, and stress, especially via music listening. People who reported more positive emotions overall were found to use music largely as a replacement for social interaction. Not just music listening, but also music making gave them a sense of belonging to a community. Making music, moreover, served as a method for self-reflection, the researchers said.

The new genre of “coronamusic” is especially noteworthy, according to the researchers. This term refers to musical responses to the coronavirus crisis, such as newly composed pieces, themed playlists, and famous well-known songs whose lyrics were changed to fit the pandemic. The research team found that the more interested respondents were in “coronamusic,” the more music listening and making seemed to help them cope emotionally and socially.

These findings underline the importance of real-time creative responses in times of crisis, the researchers said. New songs offered a much-needed opportunity for collective response, and this made them even more useful for strengthening resilience of both the individual and the community, they said.

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.