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Experts say learning to sing could help improve quality of life for patients with chronic lung disease



Tuesday, 17 August 2010  


Experts say learning to sing could help improve quality of life for patients

 with chronic lung disease


Respiratory experts at Royal Brompton Hospital conclude in BMC Pulmonary Medicine[1] today that singing classes can improve quality of life and reduce anxiety for patients with respiratory diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).


COPD is an umbrella term for a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Such conditions are progressive and irreversible and kill approximately 30,000 people a year in the UK – more than breast, bowel or prostate cancer. People with COPD can become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.


While receiving the best medical care and pulmonary rehabilitation, some patients with COPD still report feeling breathless. Singing lessons teach people to control their breathing and posture. It was considered that singing might be useful for patients who are breathless so the effect of singing lessons was evaluated in patients at Royal Brompton Hospital.


Twenty-eight patients with COPD took part in the randomised controlled trial. A six week course of twice weekly singing classes was compared to usual care. The experience of singing was assessed through interviews with a psychologist and quality of life questionnaires. Patients with chronic respiratory conditions, who took part in a series of open singing workshops, were also surveyed.


Singing did not alter lung function tests but patients described positive effect singing had on their general well-being, the sense of community support they felt in the classes and the feeling of achievement that taking part in the classes gave them. Results from patients attending the open singing workshops show that:


  • Ninety-six per cent of participants rated the workshops as “very enjoyable”;

  • Ninety-eight per cent thought the workshops had taught them something different about breathing;

  • Eighty-one per cent felt a “marked physical difference” after the workshops; and

  • Ninety-two per cent said that they would like to attend more singing workshops at the hospital.


Dr. Nicholas Hopkinson, consultant respiratory physician at Royal Brompton Hospital and senior lecturer at Imperial College London, said, “We are always looking for ways to improve patient care at the hospital, which is why we started the singing classes for patients with respiratory problems.


“Patients with COPD can often feel lonely and isolated. It is useful to learn from the trial that patients found the classes helped them to feel better and more confident. It has also motivated others to re-join pulmonary rehabilitation classes.


“Also, the study showed that taking part in singing classes can help to alleviate depression and anxiety, which is common in patients with COPD.”

COPD is a long-term, incurable condition that can have serious effects on health and quality of life.  It is a major and growing public health problem, affecting about 10 per cent of people over the age of 40 worldwide.




For further information please contact:


Shima Islam, Head of media relations

Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust

Tel: 020 7351 8672 (Brompton)

Tel: 01895 828 877 (Harefield)

Mobile: 07866 536 345

Email: S.Islam@rbht.nhs.uk


Notes to editors:


Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and among the largest in Europe. The Trust helps patients from all age groups who have heart and lung problems.


Singing workshops for the clinical trial were developed and led by voice coach Phoene Cave, working with rb&hArts. This research has been funded by rb&hArts with donations from the Ian Adam Memorial Concert. It has been supported by the National Institute of Health Research Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit at Royal Brompton & Harefield Foundation NHS Trust and Imperial College London.  


[1] BMC Pulmonary Medicine is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of the prevention, diagnosis and management of pulmonary and associated disorders. The study can be found at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2466/10/41 


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