In May 2023, SingWell’s Executive Committee selected the second group of research study proposals that will receive study funding supported by our SSHRC Partnership Grant. The SingWell Executive Committee is comprised of 12 members, each of whom are one of our research or community partners. Each committee member brings their own professional or personal experiences from their field of expertise that allowed each proposal to be thoroughly evaluated. The Executive Committee proposal review followed an initial evaluation of the submissions by our six Theme Leaders, who are also SingWell research partners and are subject matter experts in SingWell’s five target communication challenge populations.
Three unique studies were selected from the group of submissions we received during our call for proposals earlier this year. We are pleased to share this year’s recipients, who are expected to begin their studies later this year.
A choir who stutters – group singing and its benefits for children and adults who stutter
Lead Researcher: Dr. Simoné Falk, Université de Montréal (Canada)
Stuttering is a speech fluency disorder which impedes communication. Due to the stigma surrounding this communication disorder, people who stutter often suffer from reduced psychosocial wellbeing, frequently characterized by anxiety, guilt, shame, and isolation. Group singing is a way to heighten social connectedness in addition to psychological wellbeing, and has the potential to enhance inclusion of rather isolated minorities. The researchers will be studying the effects of choir singing on communication and on psychosocial wellbeing in children and adults who stutter. In a first-of-its-kind pilot study, two choirs (an adult and a children’s choir) will be run for 10 weeks to evaluate effects of singing on articulation, well-being, and socio-emotional aspects specific to stuttering. This study will allow us to evaluate how singing can impact this complex communication disorder and present the potential for individuals of different age groups (children vs adults).
Sharing music with new immigrants: A proof-of-concept study
Lead Researcher: Dr. Isabelle Peretz, Université de Montréal (Canada)
New immigrants who do not speak the language of their adopted community face the challenging tasks of learning the language while also integrating into an unfamiliar society. The available research on group singing suggests that it would be an ideal option to tackle issues around communication, integration, and well-being for new immigrants, but to date there is no quantitative evidence for its value in this population. This proof-of-concept study is preparation for a randomized controlled trial that can determine whether choir is an efficient and effective strategy to promote language learning and integration. Using choir workshops that have been added to the program of a government-subsidized language center, the researchers will assess the suitability of their proposed measures of language proficiency, integration, and well-being, and will obtain quantitative and qualitative data from both new immigrants and language center staff about potential obstacles to and facilitators of choir participation, so that choirs for new immigrants can be implemented in the most appropriate manner.
Virtually Together: Do You Hear What I Hear? A Singing Collective Unites
Lead Researcher: Dr. Rena Sharon, University of British Columbia (Canada)
This project proposes to contribute to SingWell’s research on Virtual Group-Singing modalities through a study of a multi-modal virtual group-singing course, “Musical Movements,” offered by the BC Brain Wellness Program at UBC’s Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. The course comprises group-singing, movement, musical knowledge acquisition, and supportive interaction. Encompassing a multi-strand participant population, its specialized content design centers around individuals living with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions, and welcomes care partners as well as participants of BCBWP’s “healthy aging” activities. While standard virtual technology allows those with isolation or other access challenges to participate in arts-based collective activities, high-latency audio lag precludes synchronous singing and auditory collectivity. Through a mixed-method range of research we seek to chronicle the transition to low-latency synchronous singing for this diverse group, and the experiential impact to arts-based expression, social connectedness, and wellness.
Older adults residing in long-term care homes often face challenges such as social isolation and loneliness, but past research suggests we have discovered a powerful solution: group singing. Research findings have indicated that group singing can foster social connection, elevate quality of life, improve health, and enhance overall well-being. While studies have demonstrated the therapeutic benefits of incorporating choir programs for individuals in long-term care homes, little attention has been given to assessing the potential advantages of such programs for staff members. That’s about to change!
Singwell will be launching a pilot study to evaluate the potential outcomes of a group singing program in a long-term care home located in Toronto. Our primary focus will be on the psychosocial benefits of group singing for residents living with dementia. Additionally, we will explore the secondary benefits for staff members at the long-term care homes, including improvements to their mental health and well-being, as well as reductions in stress and burnout. This study will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the singing program, examining the impact on residents’ incident reports and staff sick days/absenteeism through chart data and self-report information.
The goal of this study is to demonstrate how the positive effects of this intervention create a ripple effect, potentially reducing staff absences and increasing staff retention. The data collected during this project could be utilized to inform internal policy briefs, program proposals, and budgetary support for more impactful recreation programming. Furthermore, based on the outcomes of our study, we intend to create a program template and a best practice guide that can be shared with other long-term care and retirement operators looking to implement similar group singing programs.
Stay tuned for study updates in future issues of our newsletter!
Imagine a world where our healthcare system looks beyond traditional medical interventions and prioritizes holistic health. At its core, social prescribing embraces an upstream approach, acknowledging that our well-being is influenced by factors beyond clinical care. It is a transformative process facilitated by a link worker that connects individuals to a wide range of community programs designed to support their health and wellbeing. Research shows that social inclusion, education, and food security – key determinants of health – contribute to a staggering 80-90% of our overall well-being. By addressing these diverse determinants, social prescribing empowers individuals to take control of their health journey in an entirely new way.
Social prescribing taps into an extensive range of community programs, catering to various interests and needs. Whether it’s joining a singing group, exploring artistic talents in an art class, connecting through communal dining, or embracing the joy of walking together, social prescribing offers a tapestry of opportunities to enhance well-being. One remarkable benefit is its potential to combat the global public health issue of loneliness, which negatively impacts mental and physical health. By fostering social inclusion and community engagement, social prescribing becomes a catalyst for building meaningful relationships and nurturing a sense of belonging.
Furthermore, social prescribing addresses the burden on healthcare systems. Approximately 20% of patients visit their general practitioners for non-medical reasons. By reducing reliance on primary and emergency care services, social prescribing eases physician burden and contributes to a more efficient and sustainable healthcare ecosystem. It’s win-win.
Social prescribing champions an empowering shift in perspective, from weaknesses to strengths, passions, and aspirations. It asks the vital, less reactive question: “What matters to you?” instead of “What is the matter with you?” By nurturing individuals’ inherent capabilities and desires, social prescribing allows them to play an active role in their resilience, creating healthier individuals and communities.
The journey of social prescribing is inspiring, encouraging us to reimagine healthcare as a tapestry woven with vibrant threads of community engagement, social connection, and individual empowerment. Let us embark on this transformative path together, weaving a brighter, healthier future where social prescribing becomes the key to unlocking our full potential.
For more information, check out some of the fantastic work being done by our SingWell partners!