Why is music good for the brain? – Harvard Health Blog

Can music really affect your well-being, learning, cognitive function, quality of life, and even happiness? A recent survey on music and brain health conducted by AARP revealed some interesting findings about the impact of music on cognitive and emotional well-being:

  • Music listeners had higher scores for mental well-being and slightly reduced levels of anxiety and depression compared to people overall.
  • Of survey respondents who currently go to musical performances, 69% rated their brain health as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 58% for those who went in the past and 52% for those who never attended.
  • Of those who reported often being exposed to music as a child, 68% rated their ability to learn new things as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 50% of those who were not exposed to music.
  • Active musical engagement, including those over age 50, was associated with higher rates of happiness and good cognitive function.
  • Adults with no early music exposure but who currently engage in some music appreciation show above average mental well-being scores.

Let’s take a closer look at this study

Those are pretty impressive results, to be sure. However, this 20-minute online survey has some limitations. For one, it included 3,185 US adults ages 18 and older; that is a small number if you are extrapolating to 328 million people across the country. For another, it is really a survey of people’s opinions. For example, although people might report their brain health as “excellent,” there was no objective measure of brain health such as an MRI scan, or even a test to measure their cognition.

Lastly, even if the ratings were true, the findings are only correlations. They do not prove that, for example, it was the exposure to music as a child that led to one’s improved ability to learn

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