Research Colloquia: The need for robust critique in evidence reviews on research on singing, wellbeing and health

Join Dr Stephen Clift, Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds, for this event as part of our Research Colloquia series.


In a series of recent papers, Clift and colleagues have highlighted a lack of critical perspective in evidence reviews of arts and health research.

Building on this foundation, in this paper, I discuss a highly cited study of a professionally-led singing programme with community-dwelling older people in the USA (Cohen, et al., 2005), and examine its treatment in ten subsequent evidence reviews of creative arts and music interventions published between 2010–2022 identified through the citations function of Google Scholar.

I show substantial limitations in the Cohen et al. research which seriously undermine the conclusions they reach regarding the physical and mental health benefits of group singing. I also show that the evidence reviews, whether literature reviews or systematic reviews, take the findings of the Cohen et al. study at face value and offer little in the way of critical commentary.

The most meticulous review also make errors in data extraction and the assessment of the quality of the Cohen study using GRADE criteria. Drawing on recent criticisms of systematic reviewing and meta-analysis, I consider how reviews can be so uncritical and discuss what is needed to improve evidence reviews in the field of creative arts and health. I conclude that a more robust approach is needed in the reviewing of research evidence in the field of arts and health.

About the speaker

Stephen Clift is Professor Emeritus, Canterbury Christ Church University, and former Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health. He is a Visiting Professor in the International Centre for Community Music, York St John University and the School of Music, University of Leeds.

Stephen has worked in the field of health promotion and public health for over thirty years, and has made contributions to research, practice and training on HIV/AIDS prevention and sex education, international travel and health, and the health promoting school in Europe.

Since 2000 he has pursued research in arts and heath and particularly the potential value of group singing for health and wellbeing. Stephen was one of the founding editors of Arts & Health: An international journal for research, policy and practice. He is joint editor with Professor Paul Camic of the Oxford Textbook of Creative Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

How to join

The event will be held online, please note that registration not required. Join the event via Zoom at the start time.