Sound and music create mental health

Sound and music play a significant role in healthcare and therapeutic practices. This use of music is often called music therapy and involves the use of music and sounds to improve physical, mental and emotional aspects of health.

Music affects our auditory environment, affective states (mood, pleasure, emotions), behavior (movement, social behavior), cognition (distraction, focus and concentration) and physiology (heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol, oxytocin, dopamine, opioids). These effects can be used to improve the treatment of a wide range of diseases. In 2022, the Danish Sound Cluster has contributed to the initiation of a larger mapping of the subject - carried out by the research center Music in the Brain  (collaboration between Aarhus University and the Jutland Conservatory of Music). The result is a “Whitepaper” which reviews solutions within the three areas:

  • Somatic disorders (Cancer, COPD, Stroke, Dementia, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, Tinnitus, Cochlear disorders, Operations, Dental treatments, Pain management)
  • Psychiatric disorders (Depression, Insomnia, Autism, ADHD) 
  • General well-being (Cognitive improvement, Exercise, Pregnancy and birth, Stress reduction, Healthy ageing)

Ultra briefly, sound and music can play a role in a wide range of healthcare services:

  • Physical rehabilitation: Music therapy can be used as part of physical rehabilitation to help patients restore mobility, coordination and strength. Rhythms and melodies can be used to guide and motivate patients during exercises.
  • Pain relief: Music can divert attention from pain and activate the body's natural pain-relieving mechanisms. This can be useful as part of pain management.
  • Stress and anxiety: Soothing music can help reduce stress and anxiety. Music therapists work with patients to identify music that creates a relaxing atmosphere and can help regulate emotions.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation: Music can stimulate the brain and help with cognitive rehabilitation in people with brain injuries or neurological disorders. Rhythms and patterns can support the reconstruction of cognitive functions.
  • Autism and developmental disorders: Music therapy is often used to engage and communicate with individuals with autism and other developmental disorders. Music can help create connections and express feelings.
  • Memory Enhancement: Music can evoke memories and promote memory functions, especially in older adults or people with dementia.
  • Social interactions: Group music therapy can promote social skills, cooperation and cohesion among participants.
  • Health promoting behaviour: Energizing and motivational music can be used to motivate people to participate in health-promoting activities such as exercise or diet improvement.

Music therapy can be an integral part of treatment plans prepared by healthcare professionals such as doctors, therapists and nurses. When using music intervention solutions, a number of things must be considered to ensure high standards: 1) the treatment is evidence-based, 2) the technology complies with the specific requirements of medical procedures and the individual preferences of the patient, and 3) is easy to use for nursing staff and patients. Music cannot replace good medical treatment, but complement it. 

There are some obvious innovation potentials in the intersection between the above disorders and sound technology. Through its activities, Danish Sound Cluster will support future development by creating a bridge between the owners of the needs and the technology developers.

CASE A: Dementia is a growing global health problem.

Dementia is a growing concern affecting more and more people around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 55 million people are currently living with dementia and that nearly 10 million new cases occur annually. Predictions suggest that these numbers will rise to 78 million by 2023 and 139 million by 2025. Dementia ranks as the seventh leading cause of death and is a major source of disability and dependency among older people globally.

Dementia does not only affect those diagnosed; it also affects the lives of their families and communities. Carers and staff, whether at home or in care facilities, face the challenge of providing stimulating and ethical care that enhances well-being and quality of life for people living with dementia.

However, there is hope for better results. Adequate healthcare measures, thoughtful planning and community support can greatly improve the lives of those living with dementia. 

The WHO introduced the Global Action Plan (2017 to 2025), which calls on member states to develop and implement dementia plans. WHO's first target within this plan is to have 75% of countries create or update national dementia policies, strategies or plans by 2025. These plans cover different areas, including:

  • Making dementia a public health priority.
  • Increase awareness and understanding of dementia.
  • Reducing the risk of developing dementia.
  • Improving dementia diagnosis, treatment, care and support.
  • Support for relatives of people with dementia.
  • Development of information systems for the treatment of dementia.
  • Promotion of dementia research and innovative solutions.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) calculated that dementia costs a whopping US$818 billion, which is about 1,1% of the entire world economy. This includes not only the money spent on health care and social services, but also the value of care provided by families (informal care).

Special Danish conditions
Correspondingly, the Danish Health Authority has established a national health plan for dementia from 2016 to 2025, in accordance with the WHO's action targets. You can find more information here about The Denmark Plan.

A study carried out by the Danish Dementia Research Center showed that in the Capital Region the annual expenditure per person estimated at around 522.800 Danish kroner.

In January 2024, the University of Southern Denmark has published a new study which is the largest of its kind with data from as many as 573.088 people, where a connection has been found between hearing loss and the development of dementia. Sound is therefore not only therapeutic, but also preventive in relation to dementia.

Music for Dementia
We therefore need solutions that can improve the lives of people with dementia, together with their families, relatives and healthcare providers. Music has proven to be a key solution that can help with memory and well-being. It can improve mood, reduce anxiety and even bring back memories. Therefore, music must be part of the dementia healthcare system and form part of the national health plan for people with dementia. Whether it's music therapy, singing lessons, attending concerts or simply listening to the radio, there are many ways music can be used. 

That is why Danish Sound Cluster is excited to be part of the Music Can project. We want to showcase Danish companies that use sound and technology to create solutions that increase the well-being and quality of life for people with dementia, their relatives and relatives. Read about the project here. 

CASE B: Sound and music as part of the plan for better mental health

In 2022, the Danish parliament has adopted a 10-year health plan for psychiatry and mental health to develop the overall field of psychiatry and efforts to improve mental health in Denmark. This involves:

  1. Building an easily accessible offer in the municipalities for children and young people in mental distress and with symptoms of mental disorder
  2. Strengthened efforts for people with severe mental disorders and here-and-now capacity package for regional psychiatry
  3. Information and destigmatization efforts
  4. Strengthened interdisciplinary and evidence-based environments
  5. Better framework for research into the prevention and treatment of mental disorders.

Danish Sound Cluster is on behalf of the sound industry and sound research entered into dialogue with a number of actors to pave the way for the development of the best possible solutions for the treatment of mental illness using sound, vibration and music. It is our clear opinion that there is great potential for innovation in bringing together project participants who do not normally have a dialogue about solutions within the field.

Contact Jens Nedergaard, jn@danishsoundcluster.dk  if you want to know more.

Projects under the auspices of the Danish Sound Cluster on Sound and Mental Health
Webinars under the auspices of the Danish Sound Cluster on Sound and Mental Health
Danish Sound Cluster

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