Publications & Presentations

Academic

Publications

Full citation

Good, A., Kreutz, G., Choma, B., Fiocco, A., & Russo, F. A. (2020). The SingWell project protocol: the road to understanding the benefits of group singing in older adults. World Health Organization (WHO) Public Health Panorama, 6(1). http://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/public-health-panorama/journal-issues/volume-6,-issue-1,-march-2020/short-communication3

Research

Presentations

Biopsychological Perspectives on Choral singing & Stress

Canadian Stress Research Summit | April 2020

Frank Russo1, Arla Good1, Alexandra Fiocco1, & Gunter Kreutz2

1 = Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

2 = Department of Music, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg Germany

A number of studies conducted over the past two decades have supported long-standing anecdotal observations that older adults participating in choral singing experience short-term reductions in stress. Although the participants in these studies have tended to be high functioning older adults living without chronic health problems, findings have been generalized leading to widespread recommendations for singing participation regardless of health status. We report two studies on community-based choirs, Study 1 compared a choir of Parkinson patients (N = 14; mean age: 73.8 years) with a choir of healthy-aging older adults (N = 10; mean age 72.8 years) in a pre-post design (60-minute singing sessions). Study 2 compared two subgroups of participants drawn from the same mixed choir in a pre-post design (60-minute singing sessions). The two subgroups included older adults living with lung disease (N = 16 mean age = 72) and older adults living without chronic illness (N = 9; mean age: 74.3). Different sets of dependent measures were applied in each study including psychological (likert-type scale) and biological (salivary cortisol) measures of stress. Significant reductions in stress-related outcomes were found irrespective of individual health status. These findings replicate and extend previous work by suggesting similar beneficial effects of choral singing in older adults irrespective of health status as represented in psychological and biological changes.

Unpacking (Group) Singing

Ryerson University, Psychology Deptartment, ACN Meeting | March 2020

Gunter Kreutz1

1 = Department of Music, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg Germany

Dr. Kreutz discusses biomarkers and family dynamics as they relate to group singing.

Understanding Group Singing in Older Adults from a Biopsychosocial Perspective

Keynote Lecture, BRAMS – CRBLM Lecture Series| November 2019

Frank Russo1

1 = Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Many older adults face formidable challenges to social wellbeing. Foremost among these is the social isolation and loneliness that may arise from a combination of factors inclusive of retirement from work, increased physical distance from family, and the death of loved ones. Another prominent challenge to social wellbeing concerns stigma, often involving self-stereotyping whereby an individual internalizes commonly held negative characterizations of aging or aging-associated diseases as part of their social identity. SingWell Canada is a SSHRC-funded partnership development grant that aims to investigate the potential for choir singing to support social wellbeing in older adults living with age-associated diseases (Parkinson’s, Lung Disease, Dementia, Aphasia, Hearing Loss) as well as those who are in good health. We are currently tracking 15 newly formed choirs across Canada. A second aim of this project is to clarify the sociobiological underpinnings of any benefits to social wellbeing. Our results at the year-1 mark of this program of research suggest that group singing leads to increased social connectedness and reduced stigma. Pre-post session effects typically show increases in oxytocin and pain thresholds, and decreases in cortisol. Comparisons with control conditions suggest that some of these pre-post effects are driven by singing alone, while others arise as a function of group dynamics.

Group Singing, but not Private Singing, Elevates Mood & Increases Oxytocin in Older Adults

SMPC Conference Lecture | August 2019

Arla Good1, Alexander Pachete1, Gunter Kreutz2, Alexandra Fiocco1, Fran Copelli1, and Frank Russo1.

1 = Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

2 = Department of Music, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg Germany

Many older adults, especially those living with age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, face formidable challenges to psychosocial wellbeing. Foremost among these is loneliness and depression that may arise following a diagnosis. Increasingly, older adults are discovering group singing as a meaningful social activity that may address challenges to psychosocial wellbeing. The research presented here is part of the SingWell project, an international research study aimed at investigating the potential for group singing to support psychosocial wellbeing in older adults living with various age-related diseases. Another aim of this project is to clarify the biological underpinnings of these benefits, including the effects of group singing on cortisol, a stress-related hormone. In the current study, we assess the impact of group singing on the psychosocial wellbeing of older adults in two newly established choirs; one group consisting of older adults living with Parkinson’s disease and the other consisting of healthy aging older adults. In a pre-post design, participants were asked to complete a brief questionnaire assessing their current positive and negative affect and perceived social connectedness, as well as provide a saliva sample used to assess cortisol levels before and after group singing. The data show a positive shift in mood and an increased level of social connection following a single session of group singing. Moreover, a preliminary analysis of the salivary assay reveals a decrease in cortisol levels following group singing. These findings provide new insights regarding the positive impact of group singing on psychosocial wellbeing in older adults.

Group Singing Improves Psychosocial Wellbeing in Older Adults

SMPC Conference Lecture | August 2019

Arla Good1, Alexander Pachete1, Gunter Kreutz2, Alexandra Fiocco1, Fran Copelli1, and Frank Russo1.

1 = Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

2 = Department of Music, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg Germany

Many older adults, especially those living with age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, face formidable challenges to psychosocial wellbeing. Foremost among these is loneliness and depression that may arise following a diagnosis. Increasingly, older adults are discovering group singing as a meaningful social activity that may address challenges to psychosocial wellbeing. The research presented here is part of the SingWell project, an international research study aimed at investigating the potential for group singing to support psychosocial wellbeing in older adults living with various age-related diseases. Another aim of this project is to clarify the biological underpinnings of these benefits, including the effects of group singing on cortisol, a stress-related hormone. In the current study, we assess the impact of group singing on the psychosocial wellbeing of older adults in two newly established choirs; one group consisting of older adults living with Parkinson’s disease and the other consisting of healthy aging older adults. In a pre-post design, participants were asked to complete a brief questionnaire assessing their current positive and negative affect and perceived social connectedness, as well as provide a saliva sample used to assess cortisol levels before and after group singing. The data show a positive shift in mood and an increased level of social connection following a single session of group singing. Moreover, a preliminary analysis of the salivary assay reveals a decrease in cortisol levels following group singing. These findings provide new insights regarding the positive impact of group singing on psychosocial wellbeing in older adults.

The Effects of Group Singing on Pain Threshold & Beta-endorphins in Older Adults With & Without Parkinson’s Disease

SMPC Conference Poster Presentation | August 2019

Alexander Pachete1, Arla Good1, Fran Copelli1, and Frank Russo1.

1 = Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Social well-being is often compromised in older adults due to a confluence of factors. These include so- cial isolation and loneliness, which can arise from retirement, separation from family, cessation of driving, and the death of loved ones. Social isolation and loneliness are especially prevalent in those diagnosed with age-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s. Over the past decade, numerous research groups have found support for the idea that synchronous movement, such as that which occurs in group singing, may foster social bonding. Other studies have found that group singing leads to increases in pain thresholds, even after accounting for analgesic effects associated with cardiovascular activity. Dunbar and colleagues have sug- gested that the increases in pain thresholds may be due to the release of the hormone, beta-endorphin. To the best of our knowledge, this intriguing sociobiological explanation for increases in pain thresholds follow- ing group singing has not yet been tested using hormonal assays. In the current study, we tested analgesic effects of group singing in two groups of older adults. One of the groups is a Parkinson’s choir, and the other is a healthy older adult choir. The research presented here is part of the SingWell project, an international research study investigating group singing in older adults from a biopsychosocial perspective. We con- ducted a pain threshold test using a dolorimeter and obtained a saliva sample immediately before the choir session began and immediately after the choir session ended. Results revealed the expected post-singing increase in pain thresholds for both choirs. Beta-endorphin assays will be used to assess sociobiological explanations of the analgesic effects of group singing.

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