Drumming for Mental Health

Exploring the psychosocial and biological impact of drumming for people with a diagnosed mental health condition.

The project examined how group drumming can facilitate mental health recovery among adults with experience of mental and emotional distress, based on a series of drumming interventions led by professional and student musicians.

Adopting a mixed-methods approach, quantitative and qualitative data were collected throughout each intervention using questionnaires, saliva samples to measure stress response and immune function, and interviews.

Key findings

  • Compared with control activities, 10 weeks of group drumming led to significant improvements in measures of anxiety (by 20%), depression (by 38%), social resilience (by 23%), and wellbeing (by 16%).
  • These findings were maintained at 3 months follow-up, with drumming seen to facilitate positive emotions, increased agency, a sense of accomplishment, task engagement, enhanced self-awareness, and social connections.
  • The mechanisms behind recovery were identified as:
    • artistic, due to the communicative and rhythmic nature of drumming;
    • social, due to the accepting, safe, and connecting nature of the group; and
    • educational, due to the inclusive and free learning environment expedited by expert musical facilitators.
  • In addition, analyses of immune function (derived from saliva samples taken as part of the research) showed that drumming was also associated with a shift away from an inflammatory immune profile, a finding that is comparable with results from studies involving anti-depressant medication and psychotherapies.


Learning from this project has informed drumming and singing interventions offered through the Art for Ages project.


Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery, an international health humanities initiative.

Programme area

Clinical trials and implementation science





This study was led by the Centre for Performance Science; a full publication list, contacts and resources can be found here.