A new study has confirmed that attending a public cultural event can induce a positive effect on internal hormone levels. The stress hormone cortisol was reduced across the board, among other significant changes.
Over the last couple of decades, a numerous amount of studies has set out to uncover the physical effects of listening to music. In 2014, a study by Daisy Fancourt, concluded that music definitely impacts a number of biological systems. The studies measured changes in the body based on strictly recorded music. But now, live music is the focus.
Fancourt decided to measure the effects of attending a live concert on steroid hormone levels. For her recent study, investigators used 117 volunteers from concert performances showcasing the music if composer Eric Whitacre. Some participants were avid concert-goers, while others were attending a concert for the first time in more than 6 months.
Over the course of the experiment (two separate concerts), the researchers took saliva samples from the participants before the performances and then 60 minutes later. They found a drop in in glucocorticoids, cortisol and coristone, all of which are steroid hormones. Also, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) levels dipped slightly and women and rose in men. There was also a small but non-significant drop in progesterone, and no changes in testosterone.
Glucocorticoids stop inflammation, but have many side effects and risks. Cortisol is referred to as the “stress hormone” and cortisone is produced by the adrenal cortex, but is also made synthetically for use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy agent. DHEA is the most abundant steroid hormone and enhances immune responses, lowers cholesterol and improves muscle building. It has also been linked to emotional responses, such as warm-heartedness. The slight gender differences seen in DHEA levels mean that men and women might experience live music a little bit differently.
The study was generally small, but the results add validation to pre-determined studies and ideas that live music reduces stress and has positive physical benefits. The results were significant result of the age of the participants, their concert attendance and overall music ability. The authors note that this suggests “a universal response to concert attendance among audience members.” The researchers plan on continuing studies on this matter, perhaps studying the hormonal effects of different musical genres against one another.
“This is the first preliminary evidence that attending a cultural event can have an impact on endocrine activity,” said the authors.