Drumming Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety, Depression


The therapeutic value of drumming for the relief of depression and anxiety has been reported by many drumming groups and individuals. Their experience is backed by a few scientific studies.

The most recent research, completed by a group of UK investigators, validates that group drumming:

  • Generates significant improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Enhances social resilience.
  • Boosts our sense of overall well-being.

Who and How

The study’s 30 participants were receiving mental health services but not taking antidepressants. For ten weeks, they went to a weekly 90 minute drumming session. About 18 minutes of each session was taken up with instruction or discussion, and the remaining minutes were for making music using traditional African djembe drums.

A control group of participants that matched the drummers for age, sex, ethnicity, and employment status did not participate in any drumming sessions. Instead, they were involved in community group-oriented social activities such as book clubs, or special interest discussions.

Participants in both groups were monitored for psychological changes and biomarkers related to inflammation, and immune function.

What Happened

After six weeks there were noticeable decreases in depression, plus more social resilience in the drumming group. No similar improvements occurred in the control group. After ten weeks, depressive symptoms, and social resilience had improved even more for the drummers, plus their anxiety symptoms decreased, and mental well being increased.

Further, over the study’ s course the drumming participants’ immune system shifted away from a pro-inflammatory profile, toward an anti-inflammatory one. A pro-inflammatory profile has been associated with higher risk for many chronic diseases including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, diabetes, and heart disease.

The study clearly reveals that drumming - a reportedly pleasurable experience - can potentially provide mental and physical therapeutic benefits equal to or better than some medications, but without the possibility of harmful medication side effects.

Giving It A Try

Though people describe drumming in a variety of ways including creative, joyous, connecting, transformative, energizing, healing, and uplifting we will never know how it benefits our self unless we try it. Since there are many drum circles throughout the U.S. it’s not difficult for most of us to find one nearby; just Google your city or state with “drum circle” to find a location, or visit the USA Drum Circle Finder page—a link is provided below.

Sources: My Science Academy; Plos; Drum Circle Finder
Photo credit: Renate Meijer

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