Listening to Religious Music and Mental Health in Later Life

Table of Contents

Abstract

 

“Findings suggest that the frequency of listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of control… In addition, the frequency of listening to gospel music (a specific type of religious music) is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and an increase in a sense of control. These associations are similar for blacks and whites, women and men, and low- and high-socioeconomic status individuals.”

 

Content

 

Listening to Religious Music and Mental Health in Later Life
Matt Bradshaw, PhD*,1, Christopher G. Ellison, PhD2, Qijuan Fang, MA3 and Collin Mueller, MA4
+ Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sociology, Baylor University, Waco, Texas,
2 Department of Sociology, University of Texas-San Antonio,
3 Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Ohio,
4 Department of Sociology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
ਪµ*Address correspondence to Matt Bradshaw, PhD, Department of Sociology, Baylor University, 316 Draper Academic Building, One Bear Place #97326, Waco, TX 76798-7326. E-mail: drmattbradshaw@gmail.com
Received May 16, 2013.
Accepted February 24, 2014.
Abstract

Purpose of the Study: Research has linked several aspects of religion–including service attendance, prayer, meditation, religious coping strategies, congregational support systems, and relations with God, among others–with positive mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults. This study examines a neglected dimension of religious life: listening to religious music.

Design and Methods: Two waves of nationally representative data on older U.S. adults were analyzed (n = 1,024).

Results: Findings suggest that the frequency of listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of control across the 2 waves of data. In addition, the frequency of listening to gospel music (a specific type of religious music) is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and an increase in a sense of control. These associations are similar for blacks and whites, women and men, and low- and high-socioeconomic status individuals.

Implications: Religion is an important socioemotional resource that has been linked with desirable mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults. This study shows that listening to religious music may promote psychological well-being in later life. Given that religious music is available to most individuals–even those with health problems or physical limitations that might preclude participation in more formal aspects of religious life–it might be a valuable resource for promoting mental health later in the life course.

GOSPEL is GREEK for GOOD NEWS OF MILITARY VICTORY

http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/04/14/geront.gnu020.abstract

 

 

Listening to religious music in later life can have various effects on mental health, depending on individual beliefs, experiences, and cultural contexts. Here are some potential ways in which listening to religious music may influence mental health in later life:

1. **Emotional Regulation**: Religious music often carries emotional significance and can evoke feelings of comfort, peace, and connectedness for individuals who have strong religious or spiritual beliefs. Listening to familiar religious hymns or chants may help regulate emotions, reduce stress, and promote relaxation, leading to improved mental well-being.

2. **Sense of Purpose and Meaning**: Religious music frequently conveys messages of hope, faith, and transcendence, which can foster a sense of purpose and meaning in life, especially during times of adversity or existential questioning. For older adults grappling with issues of mortality or existential concerns, listening to religious music may provide solace and reaffirm their spiritual beliefs, contributing to greater psychological resilience.

3. **Social Connection**: Religious music is often performed or experienced in communal settings, such as religious services, choir rehearsals, or spiritual gatherings. Engaging in collective musical activities can foster a sense of belonging and social connection, particularly for older adults who may be at risk of social isolation or loneliness. Sharing musical experiences with others who share similar beliefs can strengthen social ties and provide opportunities for interpersonal support and camaraderie.

4. **Coping with Loss and Grief**: Religious music frequently addresses themes of loss, mourning, and redemption, offering a framework for coping with grief and bereavement. Listening to religious songs or hymns that speak to themes of hope, resurrection, and eternal life may provide comfort and consolation to older adults who are navigating the challenges of loss or confronting their own mortality.

5. **Spiritual Coping and Resilience**: For individuals who draw strength and resilience from their religious or spiritual beliefs, listening to religious music can serve as a form of spiritual coping, helping them navigate life’s challenges and uncertainties. The lyrics, melodies, and symbolism in religious songs may reinforce individuals’ faith convictions, provide guidance in ethical decision-making, and offer a source of inspiration and transcendence, contributing to overall psychological well-being.

While listening to religious music can offer numerous potential benefits for mental health in later life, it’s essential to recognize that individual responses may vary widely based on personal beliefs, preferences, and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, for individuals who do not identify with a particular religious tradition or who have had negative experiences with organized religion, alternative forms of music or spiritual expression may be more conducive to mental health and well-being. Ultimately, the relationship between religious music and mental health is complex and multifaceted, and it’s important to approach it with sensitivity, respect, and openness to diverse perspectives.

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