Singing improves the lives of people living with Parkinson’s, according to an Australian-first study conducted by researchers from the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Griffith University.
More than 70 people from around Queensland participated in the ground-breaking Griffith University study that
looked at how singing could improve the health and wellbeing of people with Parkinson’s.
Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre’s Professor Don Stewart said it did not matter if participants could hold a note, they simply had to commit to trying to sing for an hour once a week for six months.
In each session participants sang, did vocal warm ups, breathing exercises and took part in social activities.
The study was based on a UK program called ‘Sing to Beat Parkinsons’ that had not been clinically tested before.
Professor Stewart said the aim of the project was simple: to see if singing could enhance the quality of life for
people with Parkinson’s and their carers.
“We wanted to help reduce their emotional burden, depression, anxiety and stress,” he said.
“One of the most positive outcomes has been that participants reported feeling less worried about people’s reaction
to them, and felt less embarrassed.
“People no longer felt they had to conceal their Parkinson’s from others or avoid situations which involve eating or drinking in public.”
Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre’s Dr Yoon Irons helped run the 6-month study, which involved participants in southeast Queensland, China and South Korea.
“The outcome was overwhelmingly positive, it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.
“Our research has shown that singing has improved their quality of life — some have reported decreased anxiety
levels, others have shown improved mobility, speech and communication.
“We tested the participants voices before and after the six month trial, and we found that they could hold the notes
longer, had a better range of pitch, and could sing much louder.
“All of this indicates that the singing improved their lung function, breathing and muscle control, but the project also
gave them a better outlook for the future — it showed that having Parkinson’s isn’t all doom and gloom.”
The group held their first concert this month at the Sing to Beat Parkinson’s Symposium at the Queensland Conservatorium, receiving a standing ovation with a set list that included Neil Diamond and The Beatles.
Researchers from the US, Europe and Asia attended the symposium to hear the results of the study were released.
The Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre now hopes to roll out the program throughout Queensland, and
across the nation.