Could singing in virtual reality have beneficial effects on mental health?

Could singing in virtual reality have beneficial effects on mental health?

Posted on October 20, 2022

Researchers have created a virtual reality choir to understand if virtual singing could have the same health and well-being benefits as real-life group singing.

The team is testing the virtual reality singing experience in nursing homes.

When in-person group singing activities were halted during Covid-19, people tried different ways to keep their choir activities alive, such as ‘zoom choirs’. Researchers at the University of York interrogates over 3000 choir members in the UK after the first lockdown to understand what was missing from their usual choir experience.

They found that virtual choirs were a lifeline for many people in maintaining social connections, but there was a unanimous sense of loss to the collective process of creating music in real time due to the technical limitations of Internet.

To fill this gap, the University’s AudioLab team developed a virtual reality environment to allow participants to feel completely immersed in the sound of the choir.

Physiological responses

Professor Helena Daffern, from the AudioLab at the University of York, said: “We have seen in previous studies that tested physiological responses, such as heart rate variability and sweating levels, that emotions positive feelings are aroused when we sing in a group. It can improve people’s sense of well-being, especially since it connects people socially and develops a sense of community.

“We wanted to recreate singing together in a virtual environment for those who had barriers to accessing this type of activity in ‘real life’. The pandemic was one of those barriers, but after Covid we found that we could also apply this thinking to those who find it difficult to access this type of leisure activity due to health or alcohol-related issues. ‘age.

“This could mean, for example, that the health and well-being of people who might be housebound or suffer from social anxiety could join a virtual reality choir and have a positive effect on their sense of well-being. when they need it most. .”

Nursing homes

The team tested the technology in several nursing homes and received positive responses from residents and staff. The virtual reality experience has also been used in a National Trust exhibition to allow visitors to a museum to sing in a virtual choir in the hills of the Lake District.

Users of the virtual reality headset, who may or may not have been able to join a choir or climb the steep slopes of the lakes, also reported high levels of enjoyment.

Professor Daffern said: “It appears virtual reality choirs could provide a means of reaching people who have barriers to this form of social interaction, and although further research is needed to understand the exact impacts on the health and well-being of singing in a group, it is clear that the experience can certainly provide significant pleasure.

Science exhibition

The choir’s experience in virtual reality is now on display at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry in a world’s first immersive exhibition, called Turn it up: the power of musicexploring the impact music can have on individuals and societies

To learn more about Dr. Daffern’s work on singing in virtual reality, listen to the University’s podcast, The story of thingswhere the research team discusses technology and experiences of working with choirs.

Further information :

For more information on the University’s work in mental health, visit our Mental Health Research Institute website. Research at the Institute aims to improve the lives and care of people affected by mental health conditions and to mitigate the impact on individuals, families, the NHS, the workplace and entire communities.

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