Psychobiological mechanisms underlying the stress-reducing effects of music listening in daily life

Stress is a threat to health with an increasing number of reports indicating that stress is ubiquitous in daily life. Therefore, interventions targeting stress in daily life are essential. Music listening might be one of them, as people have always been using music intuitively for health-beneficial...

Full description

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Linnemann, Alexandra
Contributors: Nater, Urs M. (Prof. Dr.) (Thesis advisor)
Format: Dissertation
Language:English
Published: Philipps-Universität Marburg 2016
Psychologie
Subjects:
ANS
Online Access:PDF Full Text
Tags: Add Tag
No Tags, Be the first to tag this record!
Description
Summary:Stress is a threat to health with an increasing number of reports indicating that stress is ubiquitous in daily life. Therefore, interventions targeting stress in daily life are essential. Music listening might be one of them, as people have always been using music intuitively for health-beneficial effects. Although evidence from lab-based experimental studies suggests that music listening is, indeed, associated with health-beneficial effects, yet we do not know how effective music is and which underlying mechanisms are responsible for its beneficial effects. Particularly as music listening is a popular activity of daily life, there lies a great potential in revealing mechanisms underlying the positive impact of music listening on stress reduction directly in daily life. This thesis aims at investigating the stress-reducing effect of music listening in daily life. Thus, it is examined what is stress-reducing about music listening in daily life and which mechanisms are underlying these effects. A framework which suggests health-beneficial effects of music listening being mediated by a reduction in psychobiological stress (as measured by subjective stress levels, secretion of salivary cortisol and activity of alpha-amylase) is postulated. This thesis comprises six successive papers. The first paper is methodological in nature and provides a protocol for assessing the effects of music listening on psychobiological stress in daily life. In the second paper, mechanisms underlying the stress-reducing effect of music listening are investigated with regard to characteristics of the music (e.g., valence and arousal of the music) and characteristics of the situation (e.g., appraisal of situation as stressful, reasons for music listening). In the third paper, it is tested whether the stress-reducing effect of music listening varies depending on social characteristics of the listening situation (here: presence of others while listening to music). The aim of the fourth paper is to further investigate the role of social characteristics of the listening situation by investigating the stress-reducing effect of music listening in a dyadic context examining couples in their daily life. The fifth paper investigates a clinical sample, namely female patients with fibromyalgia syndrome – a chronic pain condition. It is tested whether pain-reducing effects of music listening are mediated by a reduction in psychobiological stress. In a follow-up analysis, paper six examines whether characteristics of the person account for inter-individual differences in the ability to benefit from music listening for stress reduction purposes. All studies consistently indicate that music listening, per se, has limited or even no stress-reducing effects. Rather, characteristics of the music (here: perceived arousal of the music), characteristics of the situation (here: reasons for music listening, presence of others, interaction with romantic partner, appraisal of situation as stressful), and characteristics of the person (here: habitual experience of music-induced chills) contribute to the nature of the stress-reducing effect of music listening. In a patient population, the health-beneficial effect of music listening is not mediated by a reduction in psychobiological stress. However, in this patient population characteristics of the person account for inter-individual differences in the stress-reducing effect of music listening. Concerning underlying mechanisms, music listening differentially affects stress-sensitive systems in the body. All studies provide evidence that music listening in daily life is associated with stress-reducing effects depending on characteristics of the music, the situation, and the person. Underlying mechanisms are closely linked to music’s ability to modulate activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Interestingly, music listening differentially affects these stress-sensitive systems in the body. It seems that different stages of music processing in the brain affect different stress-sensitive systems in the body. Thus, characteristics of the music affect ANS activity, whereas characteristics of the situation influence HPA axis activity. Furthermore, a complex interplay among characteristics of the music, the situation, and the person are observed when examining health-beneficial effects of music listening. Consequently, a one-size-fits-all approach is not favorable when implementing music for stress reduction purposes. Furthermore, a multi-dimensional approach assessing underlying mechanisms is warranted as music listening differentially affects HPA axis and ANS activity.
DOI:https://doi.org/10.17192/z2016.0495