Choirs aid wellbeing of women in military community
Published: 5 July 2023 at 11:08
Report finds joining the Military Wives Choirs can benefit physical and mental health
Increased mental and physical wellbeing and greater social connectedness are among the benefits for women joining choirs aimed at women in the military community, according to new research carried out by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
The Military Wives Choirs, in partnership with ARU, has today published ‘Open Arms’, a report following the completion of a year-long research project, undertaken through a collaboration between the Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI) and the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research (CIMTR), both based at ARU.
Endorsed by the Chief of Defence People, Vice Admiral Philip Hally CB MBE, the report sheds a light on the stresses and strains of military life and the ways in which the Military Wives Choirs network alleviates these challenges.
Regular postings of military personnel and their families are eased by the presence of choirs in multiple locations – there are 70 choirs in the UK and overseas – and the existence of core repertoire, a shared music which is familiar to all. Long periods of separation due to deployments are made easier through the support and understanding of fellow choir members.
The report also highlights the benefits of singing in a choir which include personal development and empowerment, greater social connectedness, and increased mental and physical wellbeing. In response to the research survey, one choir member stated:
“The positive impact that choir has on my mental health cannot be overstated. Choir is my safe space and the time in the week where I feel calm, I can escape from my anxieties and finish the rehearsal feeling re-energised.”
One of the main reasons uncovered in the report for why women in the military community may not join a choir was a lack of awareness of eligibility. The Military Wives Choirs welcomes all women with a military connection including wives and partners of serving personnel, currently serving women, ex-servicewomen, wives, partners and widows of veterans, and immediate family members of those currently serving.
Professor Matt Fossey, Director of the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University, said:
“Partners of military personnel face unique challenges, such as long periods of separation due to deployment, and relocation due to military postings.
“Our research found that the choirs provide opportunities for women to build relationships, take part in a social activity they enjoy, and feel a sense of accomplishment.
“Several barriers and challenges were also identified during the course of our research and this report provides a solid basis for the charity to address those issues.”
Wendy Human, Director of the Military Wives Choirs, said:
“This report and the research behind it is crucial to us; it highlights the sense of community we create which is unparalleled in the sector, and this simply wouldn’t be possible without the scientifically proven benefits of group singing.
“What sets us apart from a coffee morning or a book club is that our members join a choir for the singing, and they stay in a choir because of the improvement in their emotional and physical wellbeing.
“Increasing evidence suggests that social connections play a vital role in maintaining our health – the sense of community and camaraderie that is quickly built at our choirs, through an unspoken understanding of military life, is another part of the myriad benefits choir members get through being part of this incredible network.”
Music therapist Jodie Bloska, Clinical Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, added:
“We know that music, particularly singing together, has a unique ability to foster social connections and improve emotional and physical health. Our research shows that members of the Military Wives Choirs value these benefits and are empowered through singing together as a group of women with shared experiences. However, this research also recognises barriers to involvement and the need to widen access.
“Based on the recommendations of this report, the charity has the opportunity to ensure more women in the military community are able to benefit from joining a choir that is tailored to them.”
Following the launch of this report, the Military Wives Choirs will undertake a recruitment campaign which will increase awareness of its eligibility criteria and highlight the benefits of joining its network of choirs.