Playwright and poet William Congreve once said that "music has charms to soothe a savage beast". That certainly appears to be true, especially if that beast is a person's blood pressure. A pair of studies has found that playing music may lower people's blood pressure and improve their feeling of well-being.
A recent study conducted by researchers from Leiden University Medical Center examined the effect that music may have on blood pressure. According to the Pacific Standard, the study compared 25 musicians and 28 non-musicians between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. The groups were matched for height, weight, level of physical activity and caffeine and alcohol consumption. In fact, the only difference was that the group of musicians - which consisted of three guitarists, four flutists, five singers and six pianists - practiced their instruments over an average of 1.8 hours each day.
Researchers found that the musicians had lower blood pressure than the non-musicians. Though both groups were young, the researchers maintain that blood pressure levels during young adulthood have been associated with risk of death from a variety of causes, like heart and cardiovascular diseases, during older adulthood. Researchers believe that the musical group fared better than the non-musical group because their somatosensory nerve activity benefited their autonomic nervous system. The study was published in the Netherland Heart Journal.
Meanwhile, another study conducted by researchers at the University of London found that playing music improved the psychological well-being of older adults. Conducted with three case studies, in each one "a sample of older people were asked to complete questionnaires and psychological needs scales related to autonomy, competence, relatedness and [self-realization] before and after a substantial period of active engagement with music." Each case study resulted in participants having a more positive outlook on life, a greater feeling of independence and control, and a feeling of accomplishment. The study was published in the journal Perceptives of Public Health.
Either way, the studies indicate that picking up a musical instrument provides a way to boost both physical and mental health.