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Opinion: music makes us feel good, connects us with others and is at the centre of what it means to be human

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, it is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large. In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety.

In these difficult times, music therapy researchers are investigating how music can help us manage our stressed and anxious bodies, minds and hearts. In every era of human history and in every society around the globe, music has been used to express feelings and communicate with others. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer famously believed the arts lift us out of the misery of being human and British dramatist William Congreve stated in 1697 that "music has charms to sooth a savage breast".

Listening to music can have a positive effect on stress levels and promote relaxation. We know, for example, that dentists routinely use music to reduce anxiety in patients and there is significant research completed in this area. Similarly, there is evidence that music used pre surgery can reduce anxiety and can support people in their perception of pain post-surgery. Music therapists in Ireland regularly use a technique called 'Life review through music' where the person’s favourite music is used to support people with highly anxious behaviours to complete personal care routines.
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