The effects of anxiety and stress on human behaviour have been widely recognised. Experts estimate that between 50-80 per cent of all medically-related disorders are directly attributable to stress. Psychological and social stress factors are considered to be major catalysts in the development or progression of hypertension and associated illnesses, gastrointestinal problems, skin disorders, headaches, insomnia, coronary artery disease, and other potentially life-threatening diseases.
Strategies for coping with stress seem to follow two themes: first, direct attempts to change environmental demands or the capacity of the self; and second, regulating emotions associated with stress, managing tension, and facilitating relaxation. In practice, the emotional and behavioural elements are combined to form an integrated coping methodology.
Music therapy, with its potential to influence both psychological and physiological processes, then becomes an important alternative in the practice of stress management. Recognition of the inherent qualities of music in association with medicine has its roots in antiquity. Throughout history, there are references to the use of music as therapy for a variety of illnesses.
Numerous studies have reported significant decrease in the heart rate, skin temperature and muscle activity when music has been used in the relaxation process. Recent studies of psychological responses to music in the relaxation process have proved to be overwhelmingly positive. Anxiety measures and self-reports find people showing greatly increased feelings of relaxation and calmness.