Choirs may help combat loneliness, experts claim.
Scientists from the University of Sheffield believe singing in a group helps people connect, learn a new skill and develop an “enhanced social identity”.
Loneliness is an epidemic, with over nine million people - more than the population of London - “always or often” feeling isolated, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness.
“We know singing in a choir is as good for us psychologically as playing in a team sport,” Dr Chris Blackmore said.
“We can benefit from social interaction, physical activity, pleasure, learning something new and the enhanced social identity that comes from being part of a team.”
Joining a choir may also help combat mental-health issues and even support the most isolated as they reintegrate into society.
Ginny Dougary, co-founder of Liberty Choir - a charity that sings in prisons to support rehabilitation - told Yahoo UK: “Singing in a choir is good for your health in every way.
“We see the benefits for mental health, and how the weekly coming together creates bonds and becomes an alternative family.
“This is doubly true for prisoners as when they re-emerge in society they often suffer from crippling isolation, shame and loneliness.”
For some, joining a social club can be daunting.
“We can all be uncertain about what others think about us, and how we will be received, particularly when making new friends or joining a new social club like a choir,” Dr Blackmore said.
“One of the most important things to remember is this anxiety is normal, it's likely everyone else who joined a group or social club probably felt the same and some may still do.
“So being kind to yourself is really important”.
Dr Blackmore is speaking as the new series Meet the Street launched on BBC1 this morning. It looks at how people from all walks of life can be brought together through singing.
How to help someone battling loneliness
Loneliness is serious, being linked to everything from dementia and heart disease to even an early death.
You don’t have to feel helpless if you suspect someone is struggling, with even small gestures going a long way.
“Make small talk, offer a cup of tea to someone on your street, make conversation while waiting for the bus,” Dr Kalpa Kharicha, head of innovation policy and research at the Campaign to End Loneliness, previously told Yahoo UK.
While it may not sound like much, a small act of kindness can make a big difference to someone who feels alone.
“It shows openness,” Dr Kharicha said. “Small gestures, listening and talking, can be very meaningful.”
Encouraging people to take part in activities in their local area, like choirs, can also help.
“Anything that strengthens connection in communities,” Dr Kharicha said.
When it comes to older people, the NHS recommends offering to lend a hand, whether it be picking up prescriptions, changing a light bulb or giving them a lift to a doctor’s appointment.
With many struggling to cook for themselves, you could also invite them over for dinner or freeze leftovers for them to reheat, it adds.
If you are struggling, the Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123.