Music therapy can reduce depression in children and adolescents with emotional and behavioural problems, a large new study finds.
It comes soon after a positive review of the evidence for music therapy in older people.
The new three-year study followed 251 children who were split into two groups: around half were given care as normal, while the other half were given normal care plus musical therapy.
The music therapy itself included things like the therapist asking children to describe how they felt by playing a tune.
All the children in the study were being treated for behavioural, emotional or developmental problems.
The results showed that those who received the music therapy had higher self-esteem and reduced depression in comparison to those that had care as usual.
The early results suggest the effects are long-lasting.
Professor Sam Porter, who led the study, said:
“This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs.”
This study is particularly notable as much research into music therapy is poorly designed and of relatively limited scope.
Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, said:
“Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomized controlled trial in a clinical setting.
The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option.
For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works.
Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”
The study comes soon after a review of research on music therapy, which found it can also have beneficial effects for older people (Eells, 2014).
Simply listening to music, as well as singing along, were found to be beneficial for older adults experiencing long-term depression, anxiety and pain.
While medication can provide some relief, many people, quite naturally, prefer music.
Not only does music improve feelings, but it can help memory, provide a better connection to others and increases overall quality of life.
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Image credit: Sam Nasim