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Listening to music - effect on blood pressure, pulse rate and serum cortisol concentrations

Comment by Eugenio Greco, Prevention, Epidemiology and Population Science Section

The Cardiovascular Effect of Musical Genres A Randomized Controlled Study on the Effect of Compositions by W. A. Mozart, J. Strauss, and ABBA

Hans-Joachim Trappe, Gabriele Voit

Deutsches Ärzteblatt International | Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113: 347–52


In antiquity, music was used to improve performance in athletes during the Olympic Games, and it has been known that music has an effect on human beings. Systematic prospective randomized studies have investigated the influence of music and different musical genres in the setting of different clinical symptoms/conditions, surgical procedures, pain management, or to view their influence on different cardiocirculatory parameters, but the effect of different musical styles on serum cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate is currently unknown.

In this study the Authors examined 120 healthy volunteers, not patients, of whom 60 were allocated to the study group “listening to music” from the Classical and Romantic periods (Mozart, Strauss), or pop music (ABBA) and 60 to a control group without music (“silence”). The following inclusion criteria were applied: the male or female participants aged between 25 and 75 years had to be cardiologically healthy (normal cardiological history, normal clinical findings, ECG and blood pressure in the normal range) and had to be medicationfree. All subjects were examined according to a strictly defined study protocol consisting of six phases; 60 subjects (30 men and 30 women) were included in the intervention group, of whom half were younger than 50 and the other half older than 50 years of age. The age and sex distribution of the control group was identical.


  • music by Mozart and Strauss resulted in lower systolic blood pressure (- 4.7mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (- 2.1 mm Hg), while in participants listening to ABBA no relevant changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure were observed. Under conditions of silence (control group), systolic blood pressure also fell at a mean of 2.1 mm Hg (but much less so than with Mozart or Strauss), and diastolic blood pressure at mean of 2.6 mm.
  • music had a positive influence on heart rate. All three types of music notably lowered subjects’ heart rate compared with baseline, and the greatest effect on heart rate lowering was observed for Mozart’s music: the mean fall in heart rate was 5.6 ± 9.8 bpm. In the control group, the heart rate fell to 5.4 ± 8.1 bpm
  • serum cortisol levels decreased in all groups (Mozart: −4.56 µ/dL, Strauss: −4.76 µg/, ABBA: −3.00 µg/dL, silence: −2.39 µg/dL); the observed effects were not correlated with the style of music individually preferred by the subjects, but when comparing the effects of music of different genres with those of the silence period it is obvious that the influence of music is much greater than that of silence


The conclusions of the Authors were that listening to classical music resulted in lowered blood pressure, heart rate and serum cortisol levels; these drops in blood pressure were clear and expressed for the music of Mozart and Strauss; no notable effect was seen for the music of ABBA. In the control group, lying down in a resting position also prompted a fall in blood pressure.

Well, I am a doctor and also a musician (guitar and vocals of Rock/Blues Band), and I always thought that music was good for the health!

The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology