Even though music might be regarded as something frivolous, it has long been an intrinsic part of human culture. Starting from the time we are young children, some would even say within the womb, music has many benefits for our well-being. And there's increasing research showing the many benefits of having music in our lives.
How music benefits children: Advocates of music in schools have collected research showing that music and playing musical instruments helps children's language development, memory, physical co-ordination, imagination, creativity, teamwork and self-confidence. It has also been said that playing music improves math skills, but on this point, research is inconclusive.
Music helps your brain: Playing a musical instrument has many beneficial effects, not just for children but for adults too: verbal memory, spacial reasoning, faster neural responses, and literacy skills are all enhanced by learning music. It has also been shown that music is helpful for people with Parkinson's and those recovering from strokes.
How music benefits seniors: Music training is considered a possible effective way to protect brain function from cognitive decline but more research is needed. Other studies have shown that people even with severe Alzheimer's Disease "are able to learn and play novel songs".
In First Nations and Indigenous communities, drumming has also been linked to health: "Results of the qualitative analysis show that the Aboriginal women’s involvement in hand-drumming circles has many health promoting benefits and builds on strengths already existent within their community."
Music makes people of all ages happy, gives them relief if they are burdened by stress or sadness, and provides skills and accomplishments when learning to play a musical instrument. In short, music boosts health and well-being. Music is medicine, just not the kind that comes from the pharmacy.
Here's a video that summarizes what's going on in your brain when you listen to music:
National Association for Music Education 2014
National Association for the Education of Young Children 2012 (PDF):
Research paper "Music as a Memory Enhancer in Patients with Alzheimer's Disease"
Interested in learning more?
This is Your Brain On Music (book by Daniel Levitin )
Brainpickings 2015 (article)
The Guardian 2016 (article)
My Opportunity & Help Book BC