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.
- 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.