Wellness

Listening to instrumental music while driving reduces stress

Driving stress is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack (myocardial infarction), according to studies published in recent years. Choosing appropriate music to play while driving can be one way to mitigate this risk.

A study by researchers at Sao Paulo State University (UNSP) in Maria, Brazil, suggests that listening to instrumental music, for example, can relieve cardiac stress while driving.

The results of the study are published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil, Oxford Brookes University in the UK and the University of Parma in Italy also participated in this study.

the stress of driving in heavy traffic

“We found that cardiac stress in participants in our experiment was reduced by listening to music while they drove,” said Vitor Engràcia Valenti, a professor at UNESP de Maria and the project’s principal investigator. The researchers analyzed the effects of music on cardiac stress in five women aged 18 to 23. All subjects were in good health, considered non-habitual drivers (they drove once or twice a week) and had obtained a license between 1 and 7 years previously. “We chose to assess women who were not habitual drivers because people who drive frequently and who have had a license for a long time are better adapted to stressful situations in traffic,” explained Prof. Valenti.

The volunteers were evaluated over two days, in different situations and in random order. One day, they rode for 20 minutes during rush hour (5:30-6:30 p.m.) along a 3 km route through a busy neighborhood in Maria, a medium-sized city in northwestern Sao Paulo, without listening to music. Another day, the volunteers took the same route at the same time of day, but listened to instrumental music on the radio. “To increase the level of traffic stress, we asked them to drive a car they didn’t own. Driving their own car might help,” Valenti said.

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People who listen to music under stress are more relaxed

Cardiac stress level was estimated by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor strapped to participants’ chests. Defined as fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heartbeats, heart rate variability is influenced by the autonomic nervous system. The more active the sympathetic nervous system, the faster the heart beats, while the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow it down. Elevated activity of the sympathetic nervous system reduces heart rate variability, while higher activity of the parasympathetic nervous system increases it.

The analysis showed a reduction in heart rate variability in volunteers who drove without music, indicating a lower level of parasympathetic nervous system activity but sympathetic nervous system activation. Conversely, heart rate variability increased in drivers who listened to music, indicating a higher level of parasympathetic nervous system activity and reduced sympathetic nervous system activity. Listening to music alleviated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced while driving.

Listening to music could be a preventive measure in favor of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress such as driving at rush hour, concludes the researcher responsible for the study.

Source

Myrela Alene Alves et al.: The effects of musical auditory stimulation on autonomic heart rate responses to driving: A prospective randomized case-control pilot study, Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.08.006

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