Group Singing for Parkinson’s Disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Group Singing for Parkinson’s Disease

Group singing has amazingly been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD) by improving stress, mood and motor function. Research led by Elizabth Stegemöller, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University reported the results of the therapeutic singing at the conference of the Society for Neuroscience 2018. Music was able to achieve results similar to medication given for Parkinson’s plus the added benefits of improving gait and finger tapping to rhythm not achieved by medication. The medicinal drugs to treat Parkinson’s have side effects and are expensive, so music can achieve some of the same results plus more in a non-pharmacological, less expensive way.

Blood Pressure, Heart Rate and Cortisol were Reduced by Singing

The researchers analyzed heart rate, blood pressure and levels of the cortisol stress hormone in the 17 Parkinson’s patients who participated in the singing group. Blood pressure, heart rate and levels of cortisol were all reduced by singing.

Previous research published March 17, 2016 in Disability and Rehabilitation journal and in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal by the same researchers found that singing improved swallowing, respiratory control and voice performance in people with Parkinson’s.

Click here to see a video made in 2017 of Stegemöller leading a singing group of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Group Singing for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Now clinical trials are underway in Kent in the UK to test group singing on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The Kent researchers claim that singing in groups can help people with chronic respiratory conditions cope during the times that they are overcome with breathlessness. It is indeed amazing to picture how people who are struggling to breathe can find the strength to be able to sing in a group. Moreover, the mental wellbeing of the seniors has improved, while their feelings of loneliness have decreased in spite of their breathing difficulties. Struggling to breathe from an incurable illness leads to anxiety, depression and feelings of being socially isolated. However, regular group singing may help people to manage better their breathing difficulties because of the positive social and psychological feelings that are produced by the singing events.

Researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health have embarked on this venture in collaboration with those from the University of Kent’s school of sport and Exercise Sciences and the Medway Community Healthcare Respiratory Team.

Singing for Better Breathing Group

The researchers hope to recruit about a hundred participants for the trial. Half of the group will participate in a weekly singing group for 10 weeks, while the other half will be a comparison non-singing group. However, when the project is finished those who were in the comparison group will also be able to participate in a singing group.

Examining Lung Function in Response to Group Singing

The researchers will use scientific techniques for examining lung function, breathing patterns and physical capacity in response to the group singing.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a major health problem in the UK where 2% of the entire population and 4.5% of people age 40 and over are currently living with this respiratory condition. It is the second most common respiratory lung disease after asthma affecting more than a million people.

In the United States COPD is a major cause of disability and the 4th leading cause of death. Currently, 16 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but many more people may have the disease and not even know it. To read more about COPD see our blog post from March 28, 2019.

Long-term Care

Parkinson’s and COPD are progressive diseases, which means that they tend to get worse over time and the day may come when it is time to think about long-term skilled rehabilitation and nursing care.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers long-term care at the hands of a dedicated and warm staff and they also have a Respiratory Wellness Unit. Music and singing make up a large part of their fantastic array of recreational therapy program and activities.


Music and singing can contribute in a non-pharmacological and less expensive way to helping people with Parkinson’s disease and COPD not only in their mood but also may show improvement in their physical state.

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