The evidence on music therapy

We’ve all heard the idiom, “Music is good for the soul.” But, according to the evidence, it’s good for your health as well.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children admitted to the emergency department who listened to music during routine procedures showed less distress and reported lower pain scores than those who didn’t listen to music.

The study included a total of 42 children aged 3 to 11 years who had an IV line placed. Half of them were randomly selected to listen to music selected by a music therapist during the procedure. Health care providers reported that it was easier to insert the IV line in children who were listening to the music;  health providers also reported more satisfaction with the placement compared to those who did not listen to music.

Those are some convincing results, but still only a single study. So we went looking for systematic reviews on the impact of music in medical settings. It turns out, there is plenty more evidence showing the positive effects of music on health.  Among them:

  • A 2011 review published in the Cochrane libraries found music therapy and music medicine interventions can help cancer patients. The review found some positive effects of music on anxiety, pain, mood, quality of life, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
  • Another Cochrane review published in 2009 looked for studies measuring whether music therapy is useful in treating depression. The reviewers only found five studies appropriate for the review. Four of them concluded that patients exposed to music therapy had a greater reduction in symptoms compared to those who didn’t listen to music.
  • And a third review published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2002 looked at the impact of music therapy on patients admitted to the hospital. Researchers reviewed 19 studies, and found music therapy improved patients anxiety levels in the hospital. Researchers didn’t find any impact on vital signs or anxiety during a procedure, but still recommended music therapy as an effective way to calm patients.

The bottom line: There is plenty of evidence to show that music therapy used in health care settings can help calm patients. And given there are no side effects associated to music listening, it’s certainly a treatment worth trying.


  1. I agree, music therapy works. A lot of experiments have been done on how the different waves affect the human organism. Really interesting topic that should be researched even more.

  2. Martin says:

    Music expresses what cannot be put in words and it is very healthy to express one self. Although I find it most enjoyable when listening to electronic music

  3. Wagon says:

    I know music can change the mood and shift your concentration. Thus pain can be lessen though. Music can help the patients to heal faster due to the relaxation on the body.

  4. Riad Ahmed says:

    Music also affact the human thinking and emotion . When you will hear joy or happiness and good music you will think positive and also your health will be good. On the other hand when you will hear sad music your will feel sad and it will affact your body. This is simple example . Thanks for your article.


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