The Effects of Music Therapy on the Quality and Length of Life of People Diagnosed With Terminal Cancer

R. E. Hilliard


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of music therapy on quality of life, length of life in care, physical status, and relationship of death occurrence to the final music therapy interventions of hospice patients diagnosed with terminal cancer. Subjects were adults who were living in their homes, receiving hospice care, and were diagnosed with terminal cancer. A total of 80 subjects participated in the study and were randomly assigned to one of two groups: experimental (routine hospice services and clinical music therapy) and control (routine hospice services only). Groups were matched on the basis of gender and age. Quality of life was measured by the Hospice Quality of Life Index-Revised (HQOLI-R), a self-report measure given every visit. Functional status of the subjects was assessed by the hospice nurse during every visit using the Palliative Performance Scale. All subjects received at least two visits and quality of life and physical status assessments. A repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant difference between groups on self-report quality of life scores for visits one and two. Quality of life was higher for those subjects receiving music therapy, and their quality of life increased over time as they received more music therapy sessions. Subjects in the control group, however, experienced a lower quality of life than those in the experimental group, and without music, their quality of life decreased over time. There were no significant differences in results by age or gender of subjects in either condition. Furthermore, there were no significant differences between groups on physical functioning, length of life, or time of death in relation to the last scheduled visit by the music therapist or counselor. This study provides an overview of hospice/palliative care, explains the role of music therapy in providing care, and establishes clinical guidelines grounded in research for the use of music therapy in improving the quality of life among the terminally ill.