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How can we protect ourselves from stress in the car?
Stress while driving increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and sudden heart complications. If the right music is heard while driving, this risk can be minimized, as a recent study shows.
In the current study by the São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil, it was found that the right music reduces the stress that occurs while driving, which could otherwise lead to cardiovascular diseases. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal “Complementary Therapies in Medicine”.
Instrumental music protects our heart from stress
Since stress while driving is a significant risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases and sudden heart complications, preventive measures are urgently needed. The results of the current study show that instrumental music helps reduce the risk while driving in a car.
The investigation included only women
The researchers found that listening to music while driving reduced the strain on the heart of the study participants. The study analyzed the effects of music on the heartbeat in five women between the ages of 18 and 23. The women did not drive very often, had had a driver's license for one to seven years and were otherwise completely healthy.
The participants rarely drove a car
Extra women who do not drive a lot were examined because people who drive a lot and have had a license for a long time are better used to stressful situations in traffic. The women were assessed on two days, in different situations and in random order.
How did the study work?
In one day, the women drove for 20 minutes during rush hour (5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) on a three-kilometer route in a busy area of Marília, a medium-sized city in the northwest of the state of São Paulo, without listening to music. On another day, the participants drove the same route at the same time of day, but heard instrumental music. To increase the level of stress, women were asked not to use their own car.
How is heart rate variability affected?
The level of cardiac stress was assessed by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor. Defined as fluctuations in intervals between successive heartbeats, the heart rate variability is influenced by the autonomic nervous system.
How does the nervous system affect the heartbeat?
The more active the so-called sympathetic nervous system, the faster the heart beats, while the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow the heartbeat. Increased sympathetic nervous system activity reduces heart rate variability, while more intense parasympathetic nervous system activity increases it.
What could be observed?
The analysis showed a decrease in heart rate variability in women who did not play music, indicating a lower level of parasympathetic nervous system activity. Conversely, heart rate variability increased in those who listened to music, indicating a higher activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and a decrease in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Music protects against stress
Listening to music reduced the moderate stress that women experienced while driving. The study included only women to control the influence of sex hormones. The results could help to create cardiovascular preventive measures in situations of acute stress in the future. Music could be such a preventive measure in favor of cardiovascular health in high stress situations. However, due to the small number of participants, further research is necessary. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Myrela Alene Alvesa, David M. Garner, Joice A.T. do Amaral, Fernando R. Oliveira, Vitor E. Valenti: The effects of musical auditory stimulation on heart rate autonomic responses to driving: A prospective randomized case-control pilot study, in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (query: 13.11.2019), Complementary Therapies in Medicine