A Randomized Controlled Trial Exploring the Effect of Music on Agitated Behaviours and Anxiety in Older People With Dementia


Aging & Mental Health




OBJECTIVES: This study, as part of a larger programme of research, sought to investigate the effect that participation in a 40-min live group music programme, involving facilitated engagement with song-singing and listening, three times a week for eight weeks, had on agitation and anxiety in older people with dementia. METHODS: A randomized cross-over design, with music and reading control groups, was employed. Forty-seven participants with mild-moderate dementia, from two aged care facilities in Queensland, Australia, were recruited. Participants were assessed three times on the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory-Short Form (CMAI-SF) and the Rating Anxiety in Dementia Scale (RAID). RESULTS: A sub-analysis of 24 participants attending ≥50% of music sessions found a significant increase in the frequency of verbal aggression over time, regardless of group (F(2,46) = 3.534, p < 0.05). A series of multiple regressions found cognitive impairment, length of time living in the facility and gender to be predictors of agitation overall and by subtype. CONCLUSION: Participation in the music programme did not significantly affect agitation and anxiety in older people with dementia. Both the music and reading group activities, however, gave some participants a 'voice' and increased their verbalization behaviour. Agitation was found to be predicted by a number of background factors (namely level of cognitive impairment, length of time in the facility and gender). Future studies would benefit more from in-depth participant assessment prior to study commencement, helping to moderate the influence of low scores, and by undertaking interventions at times when assessed symptoms are most prevalent.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Anxiety; Anxiety Scales; Distress; Elderly; Live Music Listening; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Nursing Home; Psychological Outcomes; Recreative Music Methods; Singing a Song; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

Elderly; Elderly; Aggression; Anxiety; Bibliotherapy; Cognition Disorders; Cross-Over Studies; Dementia; Educational Status; Mental Status Schedule; Psychomotor Agitation; Queensland; Regression Analysis; Severity of Illness Index

Study Type

Randomized Controlled Trial; Quantitative Methods

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