BP merrily on high? Christmas music can ease hypertension

Listening to Christmas music can reduce blood pressure, including in stressed out hospital staff, a study out of Denmark suggests.

Its authors say the effect can be observed even among those with a stated antipathy to the holiday and occurred regardless of whether participants liked the song played for the experiment.

Christmas in Denmark is apparently a taxing affair, involving the “braiding of Christmas hearts” (a sort of traditional woven ornament), and baking cookies, buying presents and filling stockings.

Then comes the high-stakes traditional Christmas eve dinner, for which “the duck has to be fried to perfection”, according to the researchers.

“There is a lot of stress associated with Christmas, and it can therefore be beneficial to investigate how the Christmas stress level can be kept as low as possible,” they wrote in the journal Ugeskr Læger (link here).

With that in mind, the Sønderjylland Hospital team invited 10 colleagues to a fake Christmas party in September, festooning the staff room with elf decorations and catering with Christmas treats.

After about 10 minutes, the participants had their blood pressure measured and filled out a questionnaire on demographic details and their “Christmas mood” out of 10. They were also asked whether they suffered from juleantipati, a Danish term meaning antipathy to Christmas.

Mariah Carey’s enduring hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” was then played on a big screen, before the BP measurement was repeated and follow-up questions asked.

The result was an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 3.6 mmHg (2.9%), although a BP drop of greater than double that was observed in one participant.

Conversely, participants’ average heart rates increased by 2.5 beats per minute (3.6%), although this – along with the relatively small BP reduction – may have been attributable to the relatively fast-paced musical number chosen, the researchers said.

While the drop in BP was statistically insignificant, this could be explained away by the low number of participants, they added.

But there were other benefits. Despite the study being conducted months out from the real holiday, there was a measurable increase in reported Christmas mood in almost all participants.

And although the participant with juleantipati did not mend their attitude, they recorded the greatest BP reduction of all, according to the researchers.

The authors concluded: “We therefore recommend that you play Christmas music throughout the month of December to reduce the stress level and bring us wholeheartedly and in a good mood through Christmas.

“People with juleantipati especially should be exposed to Christmas music.”

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