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Royal College of Music

Group drumming clinically reduces depression and anxiety in mental health service users

What we do

The Drumming for Wellbeing project involves ten weekly group djembe drumming sessions, led by a professional drummer and supported by students from the Royal College of Music in London. Participants are adults accessing support for mental health conditions and/or their carers. 

All musicians involved undergo extensive training in teaching the drumming rhythms, and in attuning themselves to the participants’ needs. This creates a cohesive group and makes the music an effective vehicle for improvements in wellbeing, social engagement and self-confidence. Participants give public performances after a few sessions, with consistently positive feedback from audience members.

A two-year research grant for the programme was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to explore the impact on mental health and wellbeing. Furthermore, in light of research showing that mental health conditions are underpinned by inflammation in the immune system, the study also looked at the underlying immune response. Research in peer-reviewed publications demonstrated that the intervention can reduce depression and anxiety, and increase social resilience and mental wellbeing. The programme is being taken forward with a view to scaling it to more locations and embedding it within the NHS.

Our findings suggest that drumming activates similar biochemical pathways to drug therapy for mental health service users.

Professor Aaron Williamson, Head of the Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of Music

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