Effects of dance on mood and potential of dance as a mental health intervention
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Effects of dance on mood and potential of dance as a mental health intervention

Karen McKenzie Professor of psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Rachael Bowes Psychology graduate, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Kara Murray Mental health nurse, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, Scotland

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your knowledge of the beneficial effects of dance on health and well-being

  • To gain awareness of the potential of dance as a form of exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • To reflect on the use of dance as a socially prescribed intervention in mental health services

Background Restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in people having to find new ways to exercise. One such way is dance, an activity that can be undertaken at home and adapted to suit most people’s abilities. Dance has been shown to have physical and psychological benefits, but little is known about the effect of dance on mood according to dance style.

Aim To explore the effect of dance on mood in two groups of participants – one engaging in ballet and the other in tap – compared with a control group, and to assess whether the effect of dance on mood differs depending on dance style.

Methods Eighty-two participants (78 females) recruited from three dance schools and clubs in the Midlands and the north-east of England completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) mood scale. Participants in the intervention groups completed the PANAS before and after participating in a ballet class or a tap class. Participants in the control group completed the PANAS before and after a one-hour wait in a similar environment to the two dance groups.

Results Participating in a dance class, whether ballet or tap, resulted in greater improvements in mood than being in the control group. Both age and dance class status predicted improved mood, but age was a stronger predictor than dance class status. There was no statistically significant difference in mood improvements between those attending a ballet class and those attending a tap class.

Conclusion Dance may offer a way of enhancing mood, particularly for those who are restricted to exercising at home. Mental health nurses could consider using dance as a mental health intervention in addition to more traditional therapeutic approaches, potentially as a social prescription intervention.

Mental Health Practice. 24, 3, 12-17. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2021.e1522

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

McKenzie K, Bowes R, Murray K (2021) Effects of dance on mood and potential of dance as a mental health intervention. Mental Health Practice. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2021.e1522

Published online: 26 January 2021

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