Will listening to Mozart reduce your blood pressure?
A small study has found that listening to Mozart for 25 minutes could reduce your blood pressure. Is it time for doctors to prescribe a daily dose of classical music? We look behind the headlines.
The research, published in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International found that listening to music by Mozart (pictured) and Strauss for 25 minutes lowered both systolic blood pressure (this is when your heart contracts and blood is forced through the arteries) and diastolic blood pressure (when the heart is at rest between beats). If they regularly listened to Mozart, Strauss or ABBA it still reduced their blood pressure in the study.
Specifically, listening to Mozart or Strauss reduced their systolic blood pressure by 4.7mmHg and 3.7mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.1mmHg and 2.9mmHg. Music by ABBA reduced systolic blood pressure by a much smaller amount – 1.7mmHg and had a very small effect on diastolic blood pressure. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol fell in all three groups.
However, it’s important to note that this study was very small - it looked at just 120 people, of which half were the control group who didn't listen to music, so only 20 people were in each group that listened to each musician (Mozart, Strauss, or ABBA).
We know that the calming effect of music can help lower blood pressure
Professor Jeremy Pearson
BHF Associate Medical Director
The researchers suggested that, in order for music to reduce blood pressure, it should have no lyrics, have few changes in volume or rhythm, have harmonies that ‘are not rousing’, and that certain parts of the music should be repeated in intervals.
The BHF view
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “Nearly 30 per cent of UK adults have high blood pressure which increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
“We know that the calming effect of music can help lower blood pressure. This study unsurprisingly found that patients who listened to classical music benefitted from a small decrease in blood pressure while listening, which would ease the work rate of the heart.
“But more research is needed before we see doctors prescribing a dose of 25 minutes of Mozart a day.”
How was it covered in the press?
The story was covered by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. While the Daily Mail’s coverage stuck largely to the facts, the Telegraph’s headline ‘Mamma Mia! listening to Mozart lowers blood pressure…but ABBA has no impact’ could be misleading. This is as ABBA did have an impact, it still lowered people's blood pressure but much less significantly.
It goes onto say that ‘for people concerned about their heart, it might be wise to stay clear of ABBA, which has no impact at all,’ again this is inaccurate. It is only the fourth paragraph that it states the pop group's music ‘made no significant difference’.
Moreover, the Telegraph article opens with a bold claim that ‘relaxing to a soothing Mozart symphony can lower the blood pressure as much
as cutting salt from the diet or exercising, a new study has shown’. The effect of cutting salt from the diet or exercising would vary hugely, depending on people’s blood pressure, initial weight, how much they reduced their salt intake and how regularly they exercised, as well as other factors. This is too broad a statement to be applied to everyone reading the article.