A year after the start of the pandemic, and Americans are feeling more and more lonely, according to the latest data. Here’s how the power of music helps our mental health.


On March 20, 2020, New York State issued an executive order shutting down all non-essential businesses, initiating what has become a series of nationwide lockdowns and fundamental changes to the way Americans have lived their lives. . It has been a little over a year since then, and there is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted our mental health in quite dramatic ways.

While most of the mental health news has been negative over the past year, I met with David Zusman, co-founder and director of the board of directors of the We Are All Music Foundation (WAAM), to discuss Prosper Insights & Analytics“The latest data on mental health and how nonprofits are using the power of music to improve lives and benefit society, especially during the pandemic.

There are hundreds of non-profit music associations; WAAM provides grants to the best focused on education, health and wellness, and underserved communities. Their Power of Music campaign enlisted the support of artists such as Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC, Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls and many other Grammy-winning producers and sound engineers to highlight the very impact. real that music can have on mental health and well-being.

15x GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY winner, Rafa Sardina supporting the #WeAreAllMusic campaign.

Gary Drenik: I love what WAAM has done to empower the nonprofits that are bringing music into our lives at a time when things can seem pretty bleak. Can you explain to us what the mental health data is saying right now?

David Zusman: Absoutely. I’ve watched Prosper’s monthly updates of his Mental Health Survey dating back to May 2020, and what’s interesting is how some mental health issues peaked while others continue. to get worse over time.

For example, anxiety was at its peak in July, with 33.3% of Americans saying they felt more anxious as a result of blockages. I could speculate on the factors behind this. I think a lot of Americans initially viewed the lockdown as a short-term solution to the virus, but as of July it was 4 months away and there was a lot of uncertainty about reopening. We had to relearn what social interaction would look like, and there was the looming threat of a second wave that made the whole process particularly perilous. Anxiety is now down 4%, and I think many have just gotten used to a new normal.

There is also a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines. Overall, nonprofit music associations tackling these issues have seen an increase in demand, while experiencing a decrease in their funding. This was partly due to the economy and partly due to the fact that musical nonprofits had become dependent on event fundraising.

Drenik: What about things like depression and loneliness?

Zusman: Yes, the data here isn’t as promising, and that’s why we’ve worked so hard with the first non-profit recipients of our Power of Music grants impact people’s mental health through music.

The depression hovered around 23% with a peak of 24.2% in November which could be linked to the anticipation of the holiday season. For the context, a recent study found that only 8.5% of Americans had symptoms of depression before the pandemic.

It’s certainly unsettling, but I think what worries me the most is that we definitely feel more lonely. 18.7% of Americans felt lonely in May. Today, 21% of us feel lonely. It makes perfect sense. We are isolated, and the longer it lasts, the more we will feel alone. Right now we need connection more than anything.

Musical organizations that create bonds between individuals fight against this. In some cases, this is done through one-on-one music lessons via video chat, and in others, by playing at the bedside of patients and caregivers in healthcare facilities who are struggling with their situation. In particular, we have also seen an increase in the number of people seeking music therapy or other mentee-mentor-type music programs in underserved communities.

Drenik: As loneliness increases over time, what does research say about the impact of music on loneliness and overall mental health? What impact can music have?

Zusman: There are so many things that say music improves mental well-being.

For example, a widely cited study highlights the positive role that music has played in the lives of people living in an elderly community for people 54 years of age or older. According to this qualitative research, not only did music help older people understand and develop their personal identity as they moved on to a different stage in life, it also helped them manage their time by keeping them engaged and distracted from concerns. daily. Researchers have described that music “fills a void”.

What’s particularly interesting about this study is that the unique isolation that can exist in elderly communities is fundamentally the closest pre-Covid-19 approximation to the dynamics that impacted people of all ages during the lockdown.

We had to adjust to a new social environment, spending more time alone or in a small, isolated community, with less to do and fewer places to go. It’s really encouraging that music seems to help us make sense of these changes, feel comforted in their midst and begin to develop a new identity while occupying our new surplus of time in a meaningful way.

Music therapy goes even further – as a recent recent WAAM Power of Music series episode, using it in a normative way to clinically improve emotional and even physical illnesses. It actually goes back to Pythagoras. One of the most cited books on the subject, Music therapy: an art beyond words, highlights how modern music therapy has almost universally positive health outcomes for children, adolescents and adults.

Music is particularly effective in improving cognitive functioning. In fact, the impact of music on the development of unborn babies has even given rise to headphones designed specifically for the bellies of pregnant women. Music can reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, improve school performance and lead to some researchers argue in favor of universal music education from birth.

Drenik: Can you tell us more about the nonprofits you’ve worked with? What has been their impact and how has the pandemic shifted their focus?

Zusman: Absoutely! Our job is to empower these wonderful organizations, so I never tire of singing their praises.

In October 2020, we announced the recipients of the our first “Power of Music” grants:

Education Through Music (ETM)

Guitars on weapons

Hip-hop public health

These three organizations have developed and executed a variety of programs that use music as a means to change lives, including expanding educational resources in underserved communities, creating mentoring networks, and promoting behavior change. positive in health. Education through Music has effectively adapted its programming to a virtual learning environment. This allowed them to maintain program stability in 53 public schools in New York City’s five boroughs and ensure continuity for 18,000 students. About 70% of parents whose children participate in ETM programs agree that learning music contributes to their child’s social development; and this has been particularly critical during a year of disrupted learning.

Guitars Over Guns, which empowers young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through strong mentor-mentee relationships, has significantly expanded a mental health module for students and mentors.

Finally, Hip Hop Public Health has a unique platform that communicates to educators the untapped potential of music to improve the psychological, emotional and physical health of individuals, especially in underserved communities.

We are very proud of the work accomplished by these organizations under difficult circumstances. We keep looking for new nonprofits that do amazing things through music, as we work hard on our 2021 fundraising campaign. If you are interested in our mission, do not hesitate explore our site to learn more about how We Are All Music!

Drenik: Thanks, David. You are doing a great job with WAAM, and I am very happy to hear about your next round of grantees. Music can change the world, and I hope these organizations can have a positive impact on the mental health crisis we are currently facing.


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