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UK Music calls on government to recognise impact of music on wellbeing

Michael Dugher, CEO of national music industry body UK Music, has called on politicians and policymakers to recognise the ‘transformative’ impact that music can have on mental health and wellbeing.

Speaking at music therapy charity Nordoff RobbinsSocial Value of Music conference on 2 December, Dugher outlined music’s crucial value, not just to the economy, but to society as a whole. He said that UK Music’s Music By Numbers report (published on 20 November) revealed the UK music industry now contributes a record £5.2bn a year to the economy and sustains 190,000 jobs.

The value of music goes way beyond all the pound signs

Mr Dugher said:

‘It’s clear that, economically, music in the UK punches well above its weight but this is only part of the picture. The value of music goes way beyond all the pound signs and the piles of economic data.

‘The economic value of music is inextricably interlinked with the critically important social value of music.’

Dugher highlighted findings from the Cultural Learning Alliance, which found that exposure to music enhanced cognitive abilities by 17 per cent. He also pointed to a study in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine which revealed 96 per cent of patients had positive responses to music therapy.

With only days to go until the UK General Election on December 12, Dugher urged the next Government to set up an inter-departmental strategy on music and health to focus all the social benefits that music can bring.

Rhetoric needs to be matched by action

He added: ‘This is a vitally important area and something that I and my colleagues at UK Music have already been talking to the Government about. It would be key in mapping out how we maximise the benefits of music for everyone… Rhetoric needs to be matched by action… including on funding.’

In his speech, Dugher referenced the impact of music on health and wellbeing by highlighting

  • evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing that music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67 per cent of people with dementia.
  • Government estimates that arts participation rates in England result in NHS cost savings of £168.8 million due to reduced GP visits.

He said:

‘We all know from personal experience how a particular piece of music can calm us, can lift our mood when we’re feeling down or depressed, can help us celebrate and feel good, can give us pause for reflection triggering memories and experiences that define our lives.’

Dugher also referenced the impact of music on general educational development by citing studies of

  • 147 children that found structured music lessons enhanced language-based reasoning, short-term memory and planning and led to improved academic performance.
  • 608 students that revealed those that played a musical instrument showed greater progress at school and better academic outcomes than those pupils who did not play music.