Singing ‘inspirational’ songs boosts cancer patients’ morale - Edinburgh Uni study

Gloria Gaynor's 'I will Survive' is among the songs said to have a morale boost. Pic: Shutterstock/Nikola Spasenoski
Gloria Gaynor's 'I will Survive' is among the songs said to have a morale boost. Pic: Shutterstock/Nikola Spasenoski
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SINGING positive songs as part of a choir can help boost the resiliency of cancer patients undergoing treatment, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh say that groups singing music with inspirational lyrics such as Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ and Queen hit ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ noticed an improvement in their mental wellbeing.

The study - conducted in partnership with University College London (UCL) - interviewed patients going through treatment for bowel, breast or prostate cancer who were invited to join a choir specially set up to research the phenomenon.

Those joining the weekly Sing With Us choir, organised by charity Tenovus Cancer Care, found they dealt better with issues including isolation after singing with the group.

Interviews with patients after they had sung with the choir also revealed they felt “more resilient” to the mental strain of living with the condition.

It is the first study of its kind to have been conducted to explore the impact of group singing for those affected by cancer.

The study noted major depression rates are approximately five times higher in patients with cancer than the general population, with many cases undiagnosed, and only 30-35 per cent of patients achieving remission from depression.

Hospital staff, carers and family members who had previously lost a loved one to the disease took part in the study alongside current and former patients.

The test group of 32 people were questioned in focus group and one-to-one interviews on how they felt before and after joining the singing group.

Claudia McVie, Chief Executive of Tenovus Cancer Care, commented: “Ours are the only studies which have examined the impact of choirs specifically on people affected by cancer; patients, carers and those who are bereaved. It is no surprise this group of people are five times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population.”

“The findings confirm what our singers have been telling us for many years, that singing builds resilience and self-esteem, leads to significant improvements in mental wellbeing and decreases anxiety.”

She added: “For the first time we have evidence these benefits are experienced not just by those living with a cancer diagnosis, but also by carers of cancer patients and those who had been bereaved through cancer, which is remarkable.”

Tenovus currently has more than 2,000 choir members spread across 18 groups in the UK and are now seeking to expand their network.

It is now hoped singing groups will be prescribed to patients as a form of support for those with mental health issues surrounding the illness.

Claudia added: “We are incredibly proud of these new research findings, which give us even more evidence that singing on prescription should be offered as part of every patient’s cancer treatment.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com