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A group of researchers from Japan were interested in investigating whether art activities, including music, may have an effect on stress hormone (cortisol) levels and anxiety. Each subject in the study participated in one of four activities: 1) playing the piano, 2) molding clay, 3) calligraphy, or 4) remaining silent (control group). Although members of each group were not professional performers, they had many years of experience practicing their respective activities (between 12 and 15 years). Results showed that for each of the three activities, both cortisol levels and anxiety had decreased after the activity, compared to levels before the activity. Interestingly, playing the piano was the most effective activity in reducing cortisol levels. The study demonstrates that music has a significant impact on both psychological and physiological factors. The authors suggest that these findings may have important implications for music education in school curriculums.

Authors: Kumiko Toyoshima, Hajime Fukui and Kiyoto Kuda

Title: Piano playing reduces stress more than other creative art activities

Journal: International Journal of Music Education, 2011, 29: 257-264