While on holiday last week I woke up one morning to hear John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme interviewing a choir leader and a professor of music education on the benefits of singing in choirs. So many positive features were identified that Humphries was led to exclaim “it is complete health and social care!”
This got me thinking. Many people probably see health and social care as being delivered by dedicated services rather than as something that could also be derived from taking part in pleasurable activities. However, it is not unusual to spend time looking after many of our health and social needs through mutual support and taking care of ourselves without any interventions from professional practitioners, so why not expand the concept of ‘health and social care’ to include activities such as singing?
Singing is said to be good for the heart, lungs, immune system, brain functioning and emotional wellbeing (see for example an article in the Guardian last autumn). Singing with others brings additional benefits of friendship and social support which in turn can enhance our health and wellbeing. Many people, myself included, have thought they could not sing, perhaps due to earlier negative experiences, but have discovered that in a supportive environment with the right instruction they can sing and enjoy it. This inclusive approach to singing is supported in the UK by the Natural Voice Practitioners Network who view singing as everyone’s birthright. Now that evidence is emerging of the health and social benefits could we promote the creation of thousands of community choirs as a desirable public health objective?