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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.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.A meta-analysis study design.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.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).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.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.