New project explores how live music can boost young people’s mental health

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A string quartet.

A new multi-partner research project – involving the University of Stirling – will examine the impact of live music experiences on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Lynne Gilmour – a PhD researcher in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport – is a partner on the unique project alongside charity Children in Scotland; the Changing Our World young people’s advisory group; Glasgow-based string orchestra, Scottish Ensemble; and the Scottish Government.

Announced as part of Children’s Mental Health Week, the project stems from the shared belief of the partner organisations that children’s mental health is the responsibility of everyone and that, in the wake of the pandemic, live music must be made an accessible part of mental health improvement activity.

Ms Gilmour said: “I’m really excited about this project and exploring how we might take forward research into practice and see real benefits to children’s mental health through live music.

“Listening to live music is completely experiential, and can be a vehicle for emotional expression, and regulation, both mood enhancing and altering. Working together with people from different organisations, and children and young people themselves, to explore ways to capture how children and young people engage with, and benefit from the experience of live music in their everyday lives will help to ensure any impact is measured effectively.”

Lynne Gilmour, University of Stirling researcher.

Lynne Gilmour, of the University of Stirling, is collaborating on the new project.

Ms Gilmour brings research expertise to the project, while the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Unit will use learning from the research to shape governmental policy. Young members of Changing Our World will steer the group’s focus and collaborate with other members to discuss the findings and agree recommendations.

The research partnership – led by Children in Scotland and Scottish Ensemble – is one of 18 supported by Emerging Minds, a UK-wide research network aiming to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems experienced by children and young people.

Positive impact

Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation Amy Woodhouse said: “Through this project we want to understand what it is about experiencing music live that may have a positive impact on mental health. We’ll be studying the evidence for this from the perspective of children and young people, looking at the impact of different factors such as location and performance type, and how experiences vary based on age and protected characteristics, such as disability, sexuality or race. We want to identify how barriers such as poverty and other forms of disadvantage can be overcome.

“Much work has already been conducted on the impacts of learning and playing an instrument on young people’s attainment and wider learning outcomes. But our emphasis will be on the wider holistic benefits of using music as much for wellbeing purposes as for curriculum-related priorities.

“We plan to engage with others working in related areas for a series of research discussions, and we look forward to a programme of workshops over the summer which will take the project forward.”


Scottish Ensemble Project Manager Duncan Sutherland said: “I think all of us have had a moment in our lives at a live music performance that’s connected with us in a special way. Music has that ability to make deep emotional connections and it’s those connections and that impact we’re looking to explore in this project, and how we can use that to enhance wellbeing for young people.

“We’re really looking forward to working with organisations from different sectors for the shared learning and discussion that will bring, and hopefully that learning will be part of a discussion that can have a real impact for young people in the near future.”

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