Is group singing special? Health, well-being and social bonds in community-based adult education classes.
Pearce E., Launay J., Machin A., Dunbar RI.
Evidence demonstrates that group singing improves health and well-being, but the precise mechanisms remain unknown. Given that cohesive social networks also positively influence health, we focus on the social aspects of singing, exploring whether improvements in health and well-being are mediated by stronger social bonds, both to the group as a whole (collective-bonding) and to individual classmates (relational-bonding). To do so, seven newly-formed community-based adult education classes (four singing, N=84, and three comparison classes studying creative writing or crafts, N=51) were followed over seven months. Self-report questionnaire data on mental and physical health, well-being, and social bonding were collected at Months 1, 3 and 7. We demonstrate that physical and mental health and satisfaction with life significantly improved over time in both conditions. Path analysis did not show any indirect effects via social bonding of Condition on health and well-being. However, higher collective-bonding at timepoint 3 significantly predicted increased flourishing, reduced anxiety and improved physical health independently of baseline levels. In contrast, relational-bonding showed no such effects, suggesting that it is feeling part of a group that particularly yields health and well-being benefits. Moreover, these results indicate that singing may not improve health and well-being more than other types of activities. Nonetheless, these findings encourage further work to refine our understanding of the social aspects of community-based adult education classes in promoting health, well-being and community cohesion.