An Experimental Field Study of the Effects of Listening to Self-selected Music on Emotions, Stress, and Cortisol Levels
Journal article, 2016

Music listening may evoke meaningful emotions in listeners and may enhance certain health benefits. At the same time, it is important to consider individual differences, such as musical taste, when examining musical emotions and in considering their possible health effects. In a field experiment, 21 women listened to their own preferred music on mp3-players daily for 30 minutes during a two week time period in their own homes. One week they listened to their own chosen relaxing music and the other their own chosen energizing music. Self-reported stress, emotions and health were measured by a questionnaire each day and salivary cortisol was measured with 6 samples two consecutive days every week. The experiment group was compared to a control group (N = 20) who were instructed to relax for 30 minutes everyday for three weeks, and with a baseline week when they relaxed without music for one week (before the music intervention weeks). The results showed that when participants in the experiment group listened to their own chosen music they reported to have experienced significantly higher intensity positive emotions and less stress than when they relaxed without music. There was also a significant decrease in cortisol from the baseline week to the second music intervention week. The control group’s reported stress levels, perceived emotions and cortisol levels remain stable during all three weeks of the study. Together these results suggest that listening to preferred music may be a more effective way of reducing feelings of stress and cortisol levels and increasing positive emotions than relaxing without music.



cortisol levels



Marie Hellsing

Daniel Västfjäll

Pär Bjälkebring

University of Gothenburg

Terry Hartig

Music and Medicine

1943-863X (eISSN)

Vol. 8 4 187-198

Subject Categories

Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

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