Music and Mood Regulation: A Historical Enquiry Into Individual Differences and Musical Prescriptions Through the Ages


The Australian Journal of Music Therapy




In modern times, the use of music in the fields of health and mental health is becoming mainstream. Its application is of interest in both the treatment of mood disorders such as depression and in healthcare settings such as cancer wards or palliative care. However, this powerful effect is by no means a new concept, with music being used for mood regulation purposes since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. In fact, it was only during the 18th century with the dichotomy between the arts and sciences that occurred, that music became regarded as of less interest to health scientists. This paper investigates historical literature on the use of music in mood regulation from ancient times until today, drawing on a narrative synthesis of historical reports in order to demonstrate the various mechanisms and types of music that were believed to be involved in its power to influence moods. It is argued that while individual music therapists in clinical practice continually consider individual differences and the potential for music to have a negative impact on mood, these issues are rarely considered in empirical studies on music and mood.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Depression; Mental Health; Mood Disorders; Music Therapy

Indexed Terms

Music history; 18th century; Musical styles; Emotions; Mental health; Health care

Study Type

Editorial, Opinions, Position Papers

PubMed ID


Document Type


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