Playing live music to hospital patients can help to lower their blood pressure and reduce depression and anxiety, research suggests.
The results of the study being carried out at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London will be used to press the case for music and visual arts to be included in the budget for all new hospitals. Classical recitals, jazz and folk are played in the wards and clinics of the Chelsea and Westminster. Three-quarters of people surveyed said it greatly diminished their stress levels.
Tests carried out on women who attended the ante-natal clinic showed that live music lowered their blood pressure. It also raised the number of heartbeats in the unborn child - a sign that it is responding well to external stimuli. There was also a significant reduction in anxiety levels in patients receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
Research director Dr Rosalia Staricoff said: "Playing live music to patients helps to distract them from their worries and helps them to relax. It also provides a connection with the outside world, and stops them feeling so isolated. "Patients will feel less threatened if they are in a welcoming environment, rather than in the traditional dark, Victorian setting of some hospitals which is not conducive to relaxation."
The next stage of the research will test whether live musical performances can relax people enough so that they need less of a particularly expensive anaesthetic drug. The study is part of a wider project at the hospital to examine the effect of art on patients. Project director Susan Loppert said: "We hope to publish results which will turn upside down everybody's preconceptions about the arts as merely a frivolous optional extra in healthcare."
BBC News story 1/23/02
BBC News 5/01
J Pyschosomatic Medicine
Anesthesia & Analgesia,
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