London - It may be the last thing you want to do on a work night out, but taking part in karaoke could make you closer to your colleagues.
Research shows that singing breaks the ice, helping people bond more quickly than other activities.
Men and women who did a singing lessons at night school became friends more quickly than those who signed up for other classes.
The Oxford University researchers said the singing may be nature’s way of helping big groups of people gel together.
Today, this is showcased in the hit BBC2 series The Choir, in which choirmaster Gareth Malone uses the power of song to spark friendships, unite workplaces and make people happier.
But in the past, it would have aided survival and helped man colonise the globe.
Writing in the Royal Society journal Open Science, the researchers added it may be no coincidence that group singing or chanting is often a cornerstone of religion.
They made the finding after asking people studying singing, creative writing and crafts and night school how close they felt to their classmates.
Although all felt equally friendly by the end of the seven-month courses, those in the singing groups bonded more quickly.
Researcher Eilunid Pearce said: “We had expected the singing classes to feel closer to each other than the other classes at the end of the seven months. However, we found something different.
“The difference between the singers and the non-singers appeared right at the start of the study.
“In the first month, people in the singing classes became much closer to each other over the course of a single class than those in the other classes did.
“Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course.
“In the longer term, it appears that all group activities bring people together similar amounts.
“In non-singing classes ties strengthened as people talked to each other either during lessons or during breaks.
“But this is the first clear evidence that singing is a powerful means of bonding a whole group simultaneously.”
Previous research has shown choir members are happier than those who simply sing around the house.
Choristers are also more satisfied with their lot than people who play team sports.
It is thought that group singing is particularly beneficial because moving and breathing in synchrony with others triggers the release of feel-good brain chemicals.
Other work has shown that singing with others provides a wealth of health benefits from strengthening the immune system and reducing stress to improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Importantly, you don’t have to be a wonderful singer to benefit.
This is because improvements to health come from being part of a team, working in synchrony and exercising the lungs, diaphragm and other parts of the body – rather than from singing in tune.
The singing class was taken by a professional tutor. Members did the occasional solo song but the focus was on singing together in harmony.