Do music therapies reduce depressive symptoms and improve QOL in older adults with chronic disease?

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Chronic health disorders increase the risk of depression, a serious mental health issue for older adults. Medications used to treat depressive symptoms can be costly and cause drug-drug interactions. Literature has shown that music therapy can improve mood and behaviors in older adults with dementia.


To examine the effect of different types of music therapy in improving depressive symptoms in older adults with chronic diseases.


The systematic review of literature was conducted using CINAHL, PubMed, and PsycINFO. The key words used for the search included depression, mood, elderly, aged, older, geriatric, music, stroke, and pain. The search was limited to peer-reviewed articles published from 2006 through 2015 that were written in English. Approximately 65 articles were found for initial reviews, and then 13 studies were selected for thorough reviews.


Five randomized controlled trials and eight quasi-experimental studies were examined in this review. Eight of nine studies that specifically used a depression-measuring instrument showed significant decreases in depression. All studies reviewed showed some benefits of music therapy in improving emotional well-being in older adults with chronic diseases. Listening to music, playing an instrument, singing, or a combination of these was useful in relieving depression and improving overall mood.


The studies in this review were selected if the full texts were available through the university library.

Conclusions and implications:

Music therapy can reduce depressive symptoms in older adults with chronic diseases. Nurses and healthcare providers should be aware of the benefits of music therapies and consider incorporating them into patient care when feasible. Music therapy is often low cost and has much less risk of harmful adverse reactions than medications. Further research with large sample sizes is needed to support the effect of music therapy.

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