Sing with Us

The Psychosocial and Psychobiological Impact of Singing in Cancer Care

Sing with Us explored whether singing affects mental health, wellbeing, quality of life, and social support for people affected by cancer.

There is growing evidence of the effects of psychosocial interventions on the health and wellbeing of patients, carers, and relatives affected by cancer. Over the last 15 years, studies have demonstrated the impact of interventions including meditation, exercise, relaxation sessions, and emotional expression on mental health, quality of life, social resilience, and biomarkers including pro-inflammatory cytokines, stress hormones, growth factors, and cell response.

Sing with Us explored the psychosocial and psychobiological impact of singing in choirs led by the charity Tenovus Cancer Care. Tenovus established a large-scale arts-in-health programme in 2010 and previous research connected to the programme revealed improvements in pain, vitality, social function, depression, and overall mental health for those who took part. Working in partnership with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the London Cancer Alliance, Sing with Us extended the understanding of the benefits of singing in choirs by examining changes in biomarkers, including stress hormones (glucocorticoids), proteins, and receptors of the immune system.

A pilot study with 193 participants revealed that a single choir session reduced stress hormones and increased levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer. ​The longitudinal aspect of the study showed that singing significantly decreased anxiety and increased wellbeing for carers and improved self-efficacy and self-esteem for those who had been bereaved. Qualitative data explored the mechanisms behind these effects, highlighting building resilience and meeting existential changes as key components of what enabled singing to result in these benefits.

Project team

Daisy Fancourt, UCL (PI)
Saoirse Finn, UCL
Katey Warran, U Edinburgh
Aaron Williamon, RCM
Theresa Wiseman, Royal Marsden


Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
London Cancer Alliance

Supported by

Tenovus Cancer Care

Learn more

Watch the Tenovus Cancer Care video to meet some of the London choir members.

Fancourt D, Finn S, Warran K, Wiseman T (2019), Group singing in bereavement: effects on mental health, self-efficacy, self-esteem and well-being, BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care [DOI].

Fancourt D, Warran K, Finn S, & Wiseman T (2019), Psychosocial singing interventions for the mental health and well-being of family carers of patients with cancer: results from a longitudinal controlled study, BMJ Open, 9:e026995 [DOI].

Fancourt D, Williamon A, Carvalho LA, Steptoe A, Dow R, & Lewis I (2016), Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers, e-Cancer Medical Science, 10 (631), 1-13 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Warran K, Fancourt D, & Perkins R (2019), The experience and perceived impact of group singing for men living with cancer: a phenomenological study, Psychology of Music [DOI].

Warran K, Fancourt D, & Wiseman T (2019), How does the process of group singing impact upon people affected by cancer? A grounded theory study, BMJ Open, 9:e023261 [DOI].

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