Melissa Bradshaw

Singing in virtual choirs is good for health and well-being, new study says

2:53, 3rd June 2019

A new study conducted by University College London (UCL) in partnership with composer Eric Whitacre and Music Productions explores how singing in a virtual choir delivers significant psychological benefits.

The research was led by UCL senior research Fellow and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker Dr Daisy Fancourt, who devised an online questionnaire to gather data from participants in Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 5.0. The results were compared with those from diverse live choirs and a data set was generated comprising responses from 2,316 singers. The singers were asked questions about social presence, the connections made through face-to-face or online communication, and how they used singing to regulate emotions.

Both groups reported experiencing improved self-esteem, greater individual confidence and a strong sense of personal agency. The results also suggested that the virtual choir experience can help combat feelings of social isolation and promote a sense of connection to others, with participants living in remote rural areas and whose horizons are limited by social isolation reporting that singing in a virtual choir helped them to see themselves as equals in a shared experience. In addition to this, virtual singers reported that the singing helped them to take time away from stresses and gave them the space to reconsider problems in their lives, although this result was greater for singers in a live choir.

‘We have so much research showing that singing in live choirs is generally good for our health and well-being, in terms of supporting our mental health, for instance,’ comments Fancourt. ‘But what we didn’t know before is whether singing in virtual choirs also has health and well-being benefits. This new research is exciting as it suggests that for people who are unable to sing in live choirs, either due to living in a rural area, in a community without a choir or due to illness, singing in virtual choirs can provide similar emotional and social benefits.’

The full report, ‘Present in Body or Just in Mind: Differences in Social Presence and Emotion Regulation in Live vs. Virtual Singing Experiences’ can be read here.


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