The Efficacy of Music Therapy for People With Dementia: A Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials


Journal of Clinical Nursing




AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To (1) perform a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials pertaining to the efficacy of music therapy on disruptive behaviours, anxiety levels, depressive moods and cognitive functioning in people with dementia; and (2) clarify which interventions, therapists and participant characteristics exerted higher and more prominent effects. BACKGROUND: Present study was the first to perform a meta-analysis that included all the randomised controlled trials found in literature relating to music therapy for people with dementia over the past 15 years. DESIGN: A meta-analysis study design. METHODS: Quantitative studies were retrieved from PubMed, Medline, Cochrane Library Database, CINAHL, SCOPUS and PsycINFO. A meta-analysis was used to calculate the overall effect sizes of music therapy on outcome indicators. RESULTS: Music therapy significantly improved disruptive behaviours [Hedges' g = -0·66; 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0·44 to -0·88] and anxiety levels (Hedges' g = -0·51; 95% CI = -0·02 to -1·00) in people with dementia. Music therapy might affect depressive moods (Hedges' g = -0·39; 95% CI = 0·01 to -0·78), and cognitive functioning (Hedges' g = 0·19; 95% CI = 0·45 to -0·08). CONCLUSION: Music therapy exerted a moderately large effect on disruptive behaviours of people with dementia, a moderate effect on anxiety levels and depressive moods, and a small effect on cognitive functioning. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Individual music therapy provided once a week to patients with cognitive functioning and manual guided in music intervention construction is suggested. Group music therapy is provided several times a week to reduce their disruptive behaviours, anxiety levels and depressive moods. Music therapy is a cost-effective, enjoyable, noninvasive therapy and could be useful for clinical nurses in creating an environment that is conducive to the well-being of patients with dementia.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Anxiety; Cognitive Abilities; Depression; Elderly; Mental Health; Mood Scales; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders

Indexed Terms

Affect; Cognition; Dementia; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; dementia; meta-analysis

Study Type

Meta-Analysis; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type