Swedish pop group Abba is still amazingly popular after nearly 50 years, thanks in part to the success of 2008’s movie Mamma Mia!
But do the Swedish supergroup’s songs have the best beat for a healthy heart?
The answer will surprise you.
A study from Germany has the answer. It was published in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International. Now, admittedly it was only a small study, but it’s worth taking seriously because it stands on the shoulders of giants. It’s just the latest in a long line of research that proves how good music is for your physical health.
For this study, the researchers split 120 people into two groups (all of them with good hearts and no blood pressure problems, half under 50 and half over 50 years of age). One group listened to music for 25 minutes per session and half got to lie down in silence.
The music group was split into three smaller groups. One got to enjoy Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in g minor, one got to wave an imaginary bat on to Johann Strauss, and one got to mime along (presumably) to a selection of Abba hits.
The results were interesting:
• Mozart lowered systolic blood pressure by 4.7 mmHg, Strauss by 3.7 mmHg, and Abba by virtually nothing. (Sorry Abba fans.)
• Mozart lowered diastolic blood pressure by 2.1 mmHg, Strauss by 2.9 mmHg, and Abba had little effect again. (Mamma Mia! Another surprise.)
• The group that rested in silence got some benefit, but not as much as the music group.
• The Mozart and Strauss listeners had lower heart rates than the others, and they dropped them by 5.6 beats per minute (BPM) (Mozart), and 4.7 BPM (Strauss).
• Mozart and Strauss were also good at lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol (especially in men). As cortisol raises blood pressure, this is also good news.
It’s interesting to note that what the people in the study normally chose to listen to didn’t affect their results. That’s important because it means that even if you don’t enjoy classical music it can still help your heart.
So why was the classical music better for blood pressure?
As different as you might think classical and pop songs are, the scientists noted that all three still had aspects to them that were repetitive and catchy, so they think that lyrics might make all the difference.
Previous research has shown that having any lyrics in a song gives our brains more work to do, so even nice, happy lyrics take some cognitive effort to process. For maximum peace of mind (and lower blood pressure) you’re better off listening to happy music with no words at all.
So, if you suffer from high blood pressure, maybe you should buy Abba’s entire back catalogue for karaoke and just listen to the instrumental tracks without singing along?