Listening to Adele while driving can reduce stress levels, study finds

A new study has found that listening to Adele while driving could lower your stress levels.

Blame it on peak hour traffic, a poor night’s sleep or not having had your morning coffee yet, but some days driving can be stressful: you take a wrong turn, someone cuts you off or you somehow manage to catch every single red light. The good news is that listening to instrumental music while driving could help reduce stress, according to new research.

The randomised case-control pilot study, published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, analysed data from five women over two days. On the first day, each woman drove 20 minutes during peak-hour listening to instrumental versions of songs, such as “Hello” and “Someone Like You” by Adele, and “Amazing Grace”. The second day they drove in silence.

Researchers calculated cardiac stress by measuring participants’ heart rate variability using a monitor attached to their chest that recorded the fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heart beats caused by the nervous system.

Typically, when we experience a stressful event while driving, our “fight and flight” response is triggered, activating our sympathetic nervous system and raising our heart beat. While the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as “rest or digest”, slows your heart down.

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Chronic stress has been linked to a plethora of health issues, from diabetes to premature aging and even death. What’s more, stress induced by driving has been revealed to increase the chances of cardiovascular problems and is involved or related to traffic accidents.

The findings showed that those who drove with music had higher levels of parasympathetic nervous system activity and lower levels of sympathetic nervous system activity.

“Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experiences as they drove,” principal investigator Vitor Engrácia Valenti said.

While a larger sample size would be needed for ensuring accuracy of the study, the results suggest that listening to relaxing music could help to lower our stress response and protect our heart health.