If you’re a nugs.net subscriber, chances are you already love live music. As it turns out, though, live music loves you back. In recent years, study after study has shown that concerts have a huge impact on physical and mental health. The health benefits of live music range from physical to mental: Concerts reduce stress, release happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, improve brain function and longevity, provide essential social connection, and even relieve pain. Essentially, your live music habit is really, really good for you.
Concerts are a communal experience
Sociologist Émile Durkheim coined the term “collective effervescence” to describe the sense of communal energy and shared emotion people feel when they come together for a single purpose. Before public spaces were shut down at the onset of the pandemic, these moments were baked into our everyday lives; in one study, the majority of people reported experiencing collective effervescence weekly, or even daily. We went to live concerts, sports events, movie theaters, and crowded bars, all of which provided us with connection and some kind of common purpose. Those activities spark a unique kind of connected joy and fulfill our need for belonging in a way that studio albums or binge-in-your-own-time TV series simply can’t replicate. Even as many aspects of our lives return to some version of pre-COVID normalcy, it is necessary to actively seek out these experiences in a way that it wasn’t before, whether by watching live sports, going to the movies, or, of course, streaming a live concert.
Live music benefits physical health
Psychology and sociology researchers are increasingly interested in the impact of the arts on health and, more specifically, the impact of live music on physical health. Studies show that live concerts reduce the release of cortisol, the stress hormone which controls our body’s responses to stress (sustained spikes in cortisol are linked to heart disease and diabetes). Researchers also noticed that participants had reduced blood pressure and heart rate after experiencing live music. Live music experiences can even act as a natural pain management method; concerts can relieve physical pain by triggering the release of endorphins, which reduces a person’s perception of pain, or even intercepting pain signals before they reach the brain.
Live concerts improve mental health
There are significant benefits of live music on mental health. One study shows that “engaging with music” — which the researchers in this case defined as dancing or attending a concert — leads to an overall sense of well-being, with participants reporting improved mood and a sense of connection to others. Concerts are a unique opportunity to experience both music and social interaction. There’s a neurochemical connection between music and mental health with hugely positive impacts. Live music has been shown to trigger the release of oxytocin — improving our senses of vitality, companionship, and trust — as well as dopamine. Music in general has even been prescribed to treat depression and improve mood and fine motor control in patients with Parkinson’s disease. One study even described live music as “better for your mental health than yoga.” Hormonal and chemical shifts aside, music creates space for emotional expression and processing beyond what we’re able to put into words.
Live music improves brain function
Listening to live or new music also challenges the brain — it has to work to understand a new sound — acting as a workout for the brain. Music improves creativity, memory, alertness, and clarity, and live music has been linked to improved cognitive function in patients with dementia. When looking at subjects’ brain activity in MRI scans, researchers found that music activates more areas of the brain than even language; in fact, in early development, babies start processing music before they can process speech. Studies have shown that listening to music releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes neurogenesis: the growth of new neurons. Essentially, listening to music, recorded or live, keeps your brain young.
People who regularly experience live music boost their creativity and cognitive abilities; reduce stress hormone levels while increasing the production of endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin; experience consistent social connection or “collective effervescence; and even live longer (up to nine years longer, in fact).