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Health Promotion and Prevention in Higher Music Education: Results of a Longitudinal Study

Mark F. Zander, Edgar Voltmer, Claudia Spahn
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 25 Number 2: Page 54 (June 2010)

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Abstract: Objectives: Music-related symptoms can already be found among student musicians during their years of university training. The goals of the present study were to ascertain the state and developmental course of the student musicians' health and to test the effectiveness of a preventive curriculum given to student musicians during their first two semesters at university. Methods: Within a longitudinal, observational study, we assessed students' psychological and physical health during the first 2 years of university training. We compared data from the group of students who had followed the prevention program (intervention group, IG, n = 144) with data of a comparison group (CG, n = 103) of students who had not followed the program. Using standardized questionnaires, we measured physical and psychological symptoms as well as health behavior in a sequential plan (duration, 3.5 yrs). Results: Student musicians (n = 247) showed elevated ratings in psychological and physical health in comparison with nonmusicians of the same age. These ratings decreased at the end of the students' second year. The prevention program had a preventive effect on the students' psychological health: while IG students remained stable in their performance and powers of concentration, CG students got worse in those same areas. However, the prevention program did not reduce physical symptoms. In comparison with their younger colleagues, upper-level students took more courses in body-oriented methods, relaxation, and mental techniques, which focus on preventive measures for musicians. Conclusion: At present, the study offers evidence supporting the use of the prevention curriculum for young musicians. In higher music education, preventive education has a positive impact on students' performance and their attitude toward health. The preventive curriculum does not have an effect on preexisting physical symptoms, and those symptoms related to the student musicians' activity should rather be treated in an additional therapeutic setting.

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