If you want to make new friends, you might want to go to the karaoke bar at happy hour.
According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, singing with others has a profound power in bringing people together quickly, especially at first.
“Singing is found in all human societies and can be performed to some extent by the vast majority of people,” study researcher Eiluned Pearce, of Oxford University, said in a press release. “It’s been suggested that singing is one of the ways in which we build social cohesion when there isn’t enough time to establish one-to-one connections between everyone in a group.”
By following seven adult education classes, the researchers found that people who attended adult singing classes made friends faster than students in creative writing and crafts classes.
While all the students in the classes felt equally connected to each other by the end of the 7-month study, the students in the singing classes felt closer faster than anyone else.
That’s because singing has a distinct advantage over the other activities, according to the study. The researchers wrote that singing “may have evolved as a mechanism of social bonding. Previous research showed that singing may be associated with increases in bodily chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins, which seem to aid in social bonding and improved moods.
Singing is also a group activity with everyone working together toward a common goal, whereas the crafts and creative writing required students to work on individual projects.
The study followed four singing classes, two crafts classes, and one creative writing class over the course of seven months, all of which met for two hours weekly. The participants took surveys at three different point throughout the study — at one month, three months, and seven months, to describe how close they felt to their classmates.
They were also given a pain tolerance test — the participants had a blood pressure cuff slowly inflated around their arms until they said that it had become “very uncomfortable.” An increase in pain threshold, the scientists contend, implies a higher level of circulating endorphins, though they didn’t actually study blood levels of these hormones.
It’s important to remember that this is a very small study, with just 84 participants in the singing classes and 51 in the writing and crafts classes. The study’s sample size, which skewed female, also declined over time because of people dropping out.
“Really close relationships still depend on interactions between individuals or much smaller groups, but this study shows singing can kick start the bonding process,” Pearce said. “This is the first clear evidence that singing is a powerful means of bonding a whole group simultaneously.”
But when suggesting a karaoke night, keep in mind that not everyone enjoys singing. The study only followed people who already enjoy these activities and willingly participated in the classes, so the results don’t necessarily apply to everyone.