Music-based intervention impacts for people with eating disorders: A narrative synthesis systematic review


Journal of Music Therapy




Eating disorders (EDs) can be life-threatening and cause long-term adverse biopsychosocial effects. Treatment options are limited and treatment seeking barriers exist. The objective of this systematic review was to examine the therapeutic impacts of music-based intervention (MBIs) for people with diagnosed EDs. Five bibliographic databases (PsycInfo, MEDLINE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, Open Dissertations) were searched. Eligible studies examined therapeutic outcomes of MBIs in people with EDs, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods. From 939 studies identified, 16 met the inclusion criteria (N = 349; age:12-65-years-old), and were categorized as: music therapy (5 studies), music medicine (4 studies), and "other MBIs" (7 studies), that is, the intervention included music and was delivered by a non-music therapist health worker and/or musician. A narrative synthesis of the studies was undertaken. Participants were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, eating disorder otherwise not specified, or mixed symptoms. MBIs varied widely and were associated with improved mood regulation, emotional well-being, and management of meal-related distress. Vodcast (video podcast) interventions were associated with healthful eating in non-inpatient populations. Studies were assessed using critical appraisal tools. Generalizability of findings is limited due to small samples and suboptimal description of MBIs. Longitudinal research is warranted with larger samples and informed by frameworks for quality reporting of complex MBIs. Review findings may encourage music therapists to further develop and examine how music therapy can help people with EDs to live healthier lives.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Mental Health; Eating Disorders; Emotional Functioning; Mood; Distress; Psychological Outcomes; Wellness and Well-Being; Music Therapy; Music Medicine

Indexed Terms

systematic review; Adolescents; Children; Elderly; music-based interventions; Depression; Anorexia Nervosa; eating disorders; Feeding and Eating Disorders; music medicine

Study Type

Systematic Review; Quantitative Methods

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Document Type