Religious Music Brings Benefit to Seniors’ Mental Health


April 18, 2014
Brain & Behavior

A new article published online in The Gerontologist reports that among older Christians, listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control over their lives. In particular, listening to gospel music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and an increase in sense of control.

These associations are similar for blacks and whites, women and men, and individuals of both low- and high-socioeconomic status.

The article, titled “Listening to Religious Music and Mental Health in Later Life,” was authored by Matt Bradshaw, PhD, of Baylor University; Christopher G. Ellison, PhD, of the University of Texas-San Antonio; Qijan Fang, MA, of Bowling Green State University; and Collin Mueller, MA, of Duke University.

“Religion is an important socioemotional resource that has been linked with desirable mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults,” the authors stated. “This study shows that listening to religious music may promote psychological well-being in later life.”

The data for the study come from two waves (taken in 2001 and 2004) of the nationwide Religion, Aging, and Health Survey of older black and white U.S. adults. The population consisted of household residents who were either black or white, non-institutionalized, English speaking, and at least 65 years of age. Responses were only collected from currently practicing Christians, those who identified as Christians in the past but no longer practice any religion, and those not affiliated with any faith at any point in their lifetime. The present analysis is based upon 1,024 individuals who participated in both waves of the survey.

“Given that religious music is available to most individuals — even those with health problems or physical limitations that might preclude participating in more formal aspects of religious life — it might be a valuable resource for promoting mental health later in the life course,” the authors wrote.

The survey respondents were asked how often they listened to both religious music and gospel music on a scale ranging from “never” to “several times a day.” Death anxiety, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control were measures how strongly the respondent agreed with a series of statements. These included, but were not limited to, “I find it hard to face up to the fact that I will die,” “These are the best years of my life,” “I take a positive attitude toward myself,” and “I have a lot of influence over most things that happen in my life.”


5 Responses to Religious Music Brings Benefit to Seniors’ Mental Health

  1. 14028141 May 3, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    scientist have proven that humans interpret there natural expressions as happy or sad in order to match the tone of music heard. Religious music often has the emotions of happiness, thankfulness and humbleness- these emotions are reflected in the person/people and can lead to good outcomes.

  2. Michelle Skeat (13035526) April 21, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    I think as opposed to the listening of religious music being a big factor, I think it is having religion itself that leads to a person showing little fear of death. As a Christian you are raised believing that when you die you will go to heaven and spend an eternity with God. This idea is what a Christian lives for, it is where they want to end up. I think the older you get, and the more devout a Christian you become the less you are going to show concern towards. Many Christians do not believe that death is the end, but merely the beginning of a new, less painful life for themselves.
    Listening to music has been proven to improve one’s mood, so whether it is religious music or just normal music that makes a difference is debatable. I think that the link between religious music and these characteristics is merely because music can cause a deeper connection or allow a person to worship, which allows them a closer relationship with God. If people played non-religious, but calming music, would they find that people feel more satisfied with life or an increase in self-esteem? Or is it only religious music that they say makes one feel this way?

  3. Chanelle Venter April 21, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    14055563- The effect of music on the human brain and body has been studied in Science for many years and the findings are mind-blowing. Recent studies have shown that listening to music or even singing it causes the body to secrete more of certain feel-good hormones. Endorphins were found in elevated levels in subjects that had listened to music while normal levels were observed in those that had not. Endorphins are hormones that are associated with feelings of pleasure. Oxytocin is another of the hormones that were found in elevated levels. This hormone is known to decrease stress and anxiety levels.In older populations, stress and anxiety is often related to the possibility of death, the pain of death and of course not knowing what happens after death. This is where religion comes in. It is comforting to older people to hold on to some kind of a religion as it provides an explanation as to what happens after death and where one goes. It also gives the assurance that one is not alone and that there is someone watching out for one’s interests. The worst realization is knowing that one’s life has essentially come to an end. It is for this reason that it has been found that gospel music alleviates the fear of death and feelings of isolation and loneliness in older populations. The combined effect of the music and the hormones that it stimulates the release of, as well as the comfort of religious assurances that there is life after death, makes old age easier to accept and life in general more comfortable and easier to bear.

  4. Govhola AI 14266042 April 20, 2014 at 1:54 am #

    I always felt a deeper connection to gospel music, felt like i had a bit more control after listening to it.Knowing that this connection will later on play a vital role in my well-being is an added advantage.Not only have i seen this in myself but in the older members of my family. I always thought that the only reason they come to terms with death and illness so calmly was because they have lived for quite some time.Only to find out that it is all based on their religious background they built for themselves growing up.This provides them with a much greater promise of eternal life that is worth much more than anything they can gain within this world.Gospel music is not just merely lyrics but contains within every song a strong message of hope,comfort,love and eternal life.It is a strong connection that Christians have to their power source God Almighty.

  5. Parushka Nardhamuni (14090130) April 19, 2014 at 3:14 am #

    Even as a younger adult, I also find it calming and comforting to listen to gospel music in times of stress and difficulty. I have witnessed first-hand how older people are able to remain psychologically healthy by listening to gospel music through my grandmother, who is a devoted and steadfast Christian. She is always humming gospel hymns or listening to gospel music on her radio as she does her daily household tasks. At the age of 75 she is still able to drive, fulfill her duties as the secretary of her church and even when she is physically ill, she is always at peace and is not afraid of death. This is due to her faith that she is going to heaven after she dies and that she will spend eternity with God, because of the work she has done to spread God’s work and her belief in God. This is illustrated in various scriptures of the Bible and is often one of my grandmother’s teachings to my family and I. One such scripture would be: John 14:2-4, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”, which were the words of Jesus.

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