Live Music Really Does Affect Our Mood: Study Shows Cortisol Levels Impacted By Attending A Live Concert

Soothing Effects Of Live Music Go Beyond The Anecdote–Study Shows Concerts Are Calming

They say music soothes the savage beast. And while there may or may not be direct evidence of how it works on lions and tigers and bears, for the first time a study shows that music does indeed have an appreciable effect on the hormone levels of humans.

A study has shown that attending a public cultural event can change a person’s internal hormone levels in demonstrable ways. Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone” was reduced across the board in a group of people who were studied during and after attending a concert. Aside from changes in the cortisone levels of people who did and did not attend a live music performance, the music seems to be related to a host of other changes that science is just now beginning to appreciate.

Music, as anthropologists will tell you, is of course as old as human society, as old as the caves our ancestors sat in front of, banging on rocks and singing wordless songs of the hunt. No known human culture has developed without some form of music.

So perhaps the notion that music would affect us on a primal level–on a neurological level, if you will–is not so far-fetched.

Only to bloodless scientists perhaps. But even they have finally started to come around.

Prior to now, most studies have been conducted in clinical settings or under laboratory conditions, using recorded music.

However one researcher, Daisy Fancourt, of the Centre for Performance Science in the UK, chose to instead measure the effects attending a live, public concert had on hormone levels.

The investigators assessed 117 volunteers who attended concert performances–some avid concert-goers, some of whom hadn’t been to a concert in six months or a year.

The researchers took saliva samples from the volunteers over the course of two separate concerts of the same music and length, one sample before the concert, one 60 minutes later, during the intermission.

What they found was remarkable: across the board there was a drop in glucocorticoids, including cortisol and cortisone. There was also a small drop in progesterone, but no observed change in testosterone.

As the study’s authors wrote: “This is the first preliminary evidence that attending a cultural event can have an impact on endocrine activity.”

With such tremendously consistent results in reducing cortisol, the hormone responsible for our fight or flight reaction, the applications are almost limitless. Cortisol suppresses the immune system and the digestive system for starters; imagine that stomach-tightening sensation when you board the subway during rush hour being–if not alleviated, at least mitigated by the presence of a live trio on the subway platform.

And although previous research has shown a connection between listening to recorded music in a laboratory setting and cortisol reduction, this is the first time live music has been shown to do so.

I don’t know about you–I’m going to be listening to some Mozart on my ride home tonight!

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