Masters Thesis

Listening to steady drumbeat as a method to reduce psychological stress and anxiety

Historically and in present time, humans have used drumming in conjunction with therapeutic or healing practices. Therapeutic drumming interventions are effective in facilitating many positive health outcomes. Typical drum therapy sessions involve multiple elements, including social togetherness, physical movement, and community involvement, which makes it difficult to assess exactly what part of drum therapy is most beneficial. We investigated how the sound of drums, just one component of drumming interventions, affects stress and anxiety levels using visual analog scales. Participants (N = 301) between the ages of 18 and 70 were recruited for the study. We compared the effect of listening to a steady drumbeat played at 60 beats per minute to an irregular, non-rhythmic drumbeat played at 60 beats per minute. Additionally, we included a group who listened to room tone silence. After being exposed to a mild psychological stressor, participants listened to one of the three sound conditions for one minute. ANOVA analysis indicated that compared to those who heard only silence, participants in the group who heard steady drumbeat scored significantly lower on both stress and anxiety assessments. No significant differences were found between listening to irregular drumbeat and the other two groups. The results partially explain how the sound component of drum interventions is beneficial to overall mental health. Implications of these results could contribute to utilizing sound in healthcare facilities as an accessible way to help reduce stress and anxiety in patients. Keywords: drum therapy, drumming, stress, anxiety, mental health