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How we know Sing with Us helps

Research is important to Tenovus Cancer Care. We want to find out how and why the help we offer people is effective, as well as discovering more about cancer treatment and support. The more we understand, the more we can help people.

Since 2010 we’ve launched seventeen Sing with Us choirs. As well as developing the service and supporting people, we’ve worked with Cardiff University, as well as the Royal College of Music in London, to find out more about the benefits of singing and how it helps people dealing with cancer. We now know that being in one of our choirs is much, much more than singing.

What we’ve investigated

Over the last six years we’ve used different methods to find out more about the benefits of our choirs. We've used tried and tested questionnaires, 1-2-1 and small group discussions and saliva samples. So far, ours are the only studies that have examined the impact of choirs specifically on people affected by cancer.

Our studies

Quantitative data (Health-related Quality of Life (HRQoL))

In this study we worked with Cardiff University to examine choir members’ health-related
quality of life. In other words, how much their health (mental and physical) affects their wellbeing and whether a choir could help.

CU Charts2

We looked at this quantitatively, meaning we used numbers and statistics. Between 2012 and 2015, over 1,000 choir members completed validated questionnaires - the Short Form 36 and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale - upon joining the choir and again after three and six months. Cardiff University then analysed preliminary data from 149 choir members for trends.

They discovered that on joining the choir, patients had worse HRQoL and greater depression than non-patients. However, after three months in the choir, patients’ vitality, overall mental health and anxiety had improved and in non-patients choir participation improved anxiety. These positive changes were sustained after six months.

Qualitative data

As well as looking at the numbers, we also wanted to find out more from choir members themselves about why these changes could be happening. If quantitative data is the ‘what’, qualitative data gives us the ‘why’ and ‘how’.

So Cardiff University ran group discussions and interviews with choir members between 2013 and 2015 and conducted a thematic analysis of the content of those interviews, meaning they drew out common themes, ideas and feelings. 

The data showed that members experience the choirs as both an uplifting musical activity and a supportive community group. It told us that people got a feeling of self-worth and purpose from being a member of our choirs, as well as giving them an identity away from cancer. They felt choir helped them to ‘live life to the full’ regardless of cancer and they valued being with people who had been through, or were going through similar experiences.

What we found

This research shows that our members really feel that being part of a Sing with Us choir has many benefits. This wide range of benefits is important as it suggests that choirs can be an effective form of support, regardless of how cancer has affected someone and offers a form of support, personal to them.

Biological data

The positive results of the Cardiff University study meant we wanted to know more about why these changes were happening.

Then in 2014 we had the opportunity to work with the Centre for Performance Science (a partnership between Royal College of Music and Imperial College London) who were pioneering the use of saliva to test for biological changes due to musical activities. This would help us see whether there were biological changes, brought about by our Sing with Us rehearsals which could explain the positive effects our choir members experience. Read the full details of this study here.