Music Shows Positive Effects on Patients with Persistent Somatic Symptoms

Joyce Chen ’23

Figure 1: Listening to music mitigates stress in women with somatic symptom disorder and depressive disorders. 

Somatic symptoms are commonly experienced in everyday life as headaches, fatigue, and bloating. Typically, these symptoms are short-lived. However, individuals with somatic symptom disorder (SSD) or a depressive disorder (DEP) have lingering somatic symptoms for months and even years. In addition to these physical symptoms, individuals may suffer from anxiety and intrusive thoughts. There have been attempts to mitigate such disorders in patients, but the medications tend to cause unfavorable side-effects. Thus, many researchers and healthcare professionals turned towards music to use as therapy. Researcher Dr. Anja C. Feneberg and her team looked deeper into the effects of music on symptoms in women with SSD or DEP. 

The team studied 29 female participants with SSD and 29 with DEP. The participants were instructed to use an iPod touch to listen to music for 14 days. Throughout the experiment, they completed surveys that prompted them to rate the music ranging from sad to happy and from relaxing to energizing. Additionally, they rated their severity of somatic symptoms while listening to music. Saliva samples were taken for biological stress markers. The results were gathered after the 14 consecutive day period and the subjects’ survey answers revealed that “happier” music correlated with a lower intensity of stress and somatic symptoms. In contrast, “sad” music was related to higher intensity of somatic symptoms. The saliva samples did not showcase any strong relationship between music listening and cortisol levels. However, “energetic” music was linked to higher salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) output, while “relaxing” music led to lower sAA output. Overall, after listening to music, the participants reported lower stress levels.

The research team concluded that certain types of music were related to the mitigation of somatic symptoms. Hence, music was deemed as a significant tool to use for the potential treatment of SSD and DEP. Further studies will be needed to gain insight about the health benefits of music listening and how it can be incorporated into treatment. 

Works Cited: 

[1] A.C. Feneberg, et al., The effects of music listening on somatic symptoms and stress markers in the everyday life of women with somatic complaints and depression.  Sci Rep 11, 24062 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-03374-w

[2] Image retrieved from: https://images.pexels.com/photos/6799972/pexels-photo-6799972.jpeg?auto=compress&cs=tinysrgb&dpr=2&h=750&w=1260 

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