“Religion is an important socioemotional resource that has been linked with desirable mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults,” the researchers stated in the study, which was published in The Gerontologist. “This study shows that listening to religious music may promote psychological well-being in later life.”
The study, “Listening to Religious Music and Mental Health in Later Life,” was conducted by Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D, of Baylor University; Christopher G. Ellison, Ph.D, of the University of Texas-San Antonio; Qijan Fang, MA, of Bowling Green State University; and Collin Mueller, MA, of Duke University.
The researchers analyzed data collected in 2001 and 2004 as part of the nationwide Religion, Aging, and Health Survey.
The data included 1,024 people at least 65 years old who were either black or white and English speaking. Responses were collected from practicing Christians, those who identified as Christians in the past but no longer practice any religion, and those not affiliated with any faith at any point in their lifetime.
The respondents were asked how often they listened to both religious music and gospel music on a scale ranging from “never” to “several times a day.”
Anxiety about death, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control were measured by how strongly a respondent agreed with a series of statements, such as “I find it hard to face up to the fact that I will die,” “These are the best years of my life,” “I take a positive attitude toward myself,” and “I have a lot of influence over most things that happen in my life.”
“Given that religious music is available to most individuals — even those with health problems or physical limitations that might preclude participating in more formal aspects of religious life — it might be a valuable resource for promoting mental health later in the life course,” the researchers wrote in the study.