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Music therapy reduces depression in young people, study finds

Published 09/11/2016

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music
Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music

The largest ever study of music therapy's effect on children with depression has found significant benefits.

Recipients, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music, researchers from Queen's University Belfast and Bournemouth University found.

More than 250 took part and experts said it suggested the care should now be made available as a mainstream option.

Professor Sam Porter, from Bournemouth University, said: "This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs."

The research found:

:: Young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those given the usual care options alone.

:: Self-esteem was significantly boosted and depression lowered.

:: Even after music therapy had finished, social functioning improved long-term in all age groups.

:: However, most improvements tended to be modest and short lasting and there was a higher drop out rate of 38%.

T he findings were part of a Music in Mind study carried out in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

It concluded the results of the trial strongly indicated the need for further research to ascertain what type and dosage of music therapy was most effective, for whom and in what circumstances.

Mental ill health affects up to a fifth of children and adolescents worldwide, including social, emotional and behavioural problems. Adolescent depression and anxiety frequently co-occur and extend into adulthood, the report added.

The therapy used musical experiences within a patient/therapist relationship to achieve better health.

Dr Valerie Holmes, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University and a co-researcher, said: "This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy's ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen's University is advancing knowledge and changing lives."

A total of 251 children and young people were involved in the study, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014.

They were divided into two groups - 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.

The Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust said: " 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."

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