Jonhn Lennon confessed on several occasions that when he composed the song Help! I need somebody for a film – which was also the title for the fifth studio album by the Beatles— he was exhausted, burdened with fame, and needed to shout “help!”
Music during the pandemic
Just as composing a melody serves as an emotional catharsis for a musician, listening to other people brings them back to happy moments and tucks them into difficult situations. This may be one of the reasons why Pastor Martínez Castilla, a professor at the National University of Distance Education (UNED), along with scientists from a dozen countries, chose the famous Beatles theme to name an investigation on the effects of pandemic music.
Previous studies have shown that musical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and facilitate social bonding, but little was known so far about its influence in situations of isolation.
Through an online questionnaire, in their study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the international team interviewed more than 5,000 people on five well-being variables during the toughest moments of this global crisis.
“During the lockdown due to the covid-19, music was a universal tool for obtaining goals related to well-being ”, Martínez Castilla assures SINC. It was the most effective activity for three of the five points analyzed: enjoyment, relief negative emotions and Connection with oneself.
More effective than reading, watching series or eating
The research was carried out in eleven countries, six of which were defined as ‘collectivist cultures’ –Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia and Mexico– and others classified as ‘individualistic’ –Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States-. The results were very similar in both.
The only difference was tied to a particular goal: the feeling of being united with others. “For this goal, a greater perceived efficacy of music was found in the collectivist culture, something that could be related to the greater importance of this type of feeling in that culture,” argues the researcher.
The work also found a relationship between the presence of symptoms linked to anxiety, stress and depression, and listening to pessimistic music. “Now, it is different between cultures. Only in the collectivist does this relationship seem to be explained through listening to the music that it produces nostalgia”, adds Martínez Castilla.
The study revealed that music was more effective than other types of strategies – such as eating, watching series and movies, reading or working – in achieving goals related to well-being. “Especially to have fun and maintain a good mood, vent and release negative emotions and to connect with oneself and isolate oneself from the outside,” adds the scientist.
A shield for well-being
In a second investigation, Martínez Castilla leads a study focused only on Spain in which he conducted a large-scale survey to analyze the perceived efficacy of music for the achievement of goals related to well-being, through express questions for this purpose. The studied goals were: to vent and release negative emotions; escape from the crisis; have fun and keep a good mood; reduce loneliness and feel closer to people.
“It was based on the results previously obtained about the negative emotional consequences of confinement in the Spanish population. According to these studies, the impact of confinement was greater in women and youth, among other groups ”, he points out.
In this other work it was observed that Young perceived a greater effectiveness of music to achieve their well-being, without differences in this regard between men and women. “In young people, the negative consequences of confinement have been related to their lower levels of resilience and to the strong change that the crisis caused by covid-19 has imposed on their lives,” says Martínez Castilla.
Also, people with musical training they perceived a greater effectiveness of these activities in promoting their well-being, “a result that can be explained by the importance they attribute to music in their lives,” he stresses.
Less effective with the most vulnerable
Alberto Cabedo More, a scientist from the Jaume I University who happened to have the opportunity to act as an external reviewer of the Martínez Castilla study, also publishes in the same journal another work on the uses of music during the pandemic in our country.
The study was carried out using the MUSIVID19 questionnaire addressed to a total of 1,868 citizens. “The results indicate that during isolation, respondents perceived an increase in the time they spent on musical activities such as listening to sing, dance or play an instrument. Participants also reported that they used music to cope with confinement, as it helped them relax, escape, improve their mood or keep them company, ”the researchers emphasize.
Likewise, they have observed significant differences in the use and perception of music according to the personal situations of the respondents. “Specifically in the use and perceptions of music in depending on the age and also the employment situation”, Says the expert.
In this way, those surveyed who feel more vulnerable perceived the positive values of music in a more moderate way. “The retired they have the lowest perception of the value of music compared to the other groups ”, he assures.
In fact, the use of new digital technologies is another of the barriers encountered by old people. This is exemplified by a study by Ana Mercedes Vernia Carrasco, a researcher at the University of Barcelona and a trumpeter, who highlights the importance of musical activity in people aged 65 to 87, but warns of the problems they face.
“When it comes to older people, we find two difficulties: the use and access to technology and the challenge of musical activity. Difficulties are aggravated when there is a situation of vulnerability such as the one that has been generated since covid-19 ”, he concludes.
However, online festivals, neighborhood performances, viral music videos and songs that became anthems have made this pandemic nightmare more bearable, which is slowly coming to an end with the best hit of the summer: the vaccines.
Online music in the face of children’s stress
The little ones can also get help from music to improve their well-being. An investigation carried out by the Francisco de Victoria University (UFV) with primary school students assesses the effect of online music and mindfulness techniques to address the anxiety problems generated by confinement due to the pandemic.
“After eight weeks of practice, all negative levels were notably reduced, although the results should be taken with caution ”, points out to SINC Gemma Ruiz Varela, researcher at the Faculty of Education and Psychology of the UFV. “The older the primary school children, the greater the application and monitoring of the sessions,” says the researcher.
(Information: Eva Rodríguez / SINC Agency)