New Meta-Analysis Shows That Music Has Positive Effects on People with Depression | Guest Post By Jane Sandwood

One third of all Americans show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, as found by the Census Bureau, a statistic that is being intensified by the current global health crisis. Issues such as unpredictability of one’s future, loss of control and personal freedom, and conflicting messages from authorities and the media are worsening mental health outcomes. Therefore, the scientific community is searching for natural yet effective ways to combat mental health issues. Nature therapy, yoga, and mindfulness-based activities are three well-studied means of keeping stress levels down and improving mood. One recent meta-analysis of studies on music therapy, meanwhile, found that it is an effective complementary treatment for depression.

Randomized Trials Put To the Test

The analysis looked into 55 randomized trials, finding that music has “an obvious curative effect on depression.” The study divided music based interventions into two categories: music therapy and music medicine. Music therapy can be defined as the use of music within a therapeutic relationship by a qualified professional who has studied a specific music therapy program. Music medicine, on the other hand, simply involves listening to pre-recorded music provided by health professionals, or even listening to live music. Music therapy itself can be either active or receptive. It is active when participants create music (for instance, by improvising, singing, or playing a musical instrument). Receptive music therapy, meanwhile, involves listening to music, analyzing lyrics, creating art inspired by music, and similar activities, under the guiding hand of a therapist.

Music Therapy and Music Medicine Are Powerful Tools Against Depression

The results of the meta-analysis showed that music therapy and music medicine were both associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. Just a few of the many activities employed by the scientists in the studies included guided imagery and music, the discussion of music, and music-assisted relaxation. The analysis also showed that music therapy had a stronger effect on reducing depression among people with severe mental disease and depression. It was also more effective at reducing depression in smaller studies (with 20 to 50 people) featuring participants with a mean age of 50-65 years who took part in therapy sessions that lasted for more than 60 minutes.

Can You Reap Similar Results On Your Own?

If you have moderate or severe depression, therapy-led music sessions are ideal, since they are structured, goal-centered, and led by a qualified therapist. However, if you are simply feeling a little more stressed or you are undergoing a rough patch, then learning to play a musical instrument can provide a peaceful retreat from the pressure – as found in a 2016 study by D Shipman. If you have always been intrigued by the thought of learning the electric guitar online, you are fascinated by the piano, or you think you might like to give the violin a try, this point in your life might provide you with a unique opportunity to do so.

You might feel drawn to learning music from a master like Tom Morello, the renowned Rage Against the Machine musician who not only delivers lessons, but understands depression from a personal perspective, having been close to Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell. Receiving lessons is a good way to ensure you are following a specific path and learning at the ideal pace, but these lessons are all the more meaningful when you are being taught by a musician whose music you already love. Any course you choose should also allow you to delve into your chosen genre, give you advice on the type of instrument you should buy, and be catered to your level (whether you are an absolute beginner or you already have skills learned in the past).

What Other Conditions Can Music Therapy And Music Medicine Help With?

Various studies have been carried out, showing positive results for the use of music therapy and medicine. One 2019 study undertaken at Anglia Ruskin University, for instance, showed that the brains of patients and therapists become synchronized during music therapy sessions, thus improving their interactions. Another (2010) study published by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council showed that music could help treat emotional and physical pain. Yet another review of studies found that music could relieve anxiety and depression in older people.

Music therapy and music medicine are currently used in a wide array of settings to help soothe stress, depression and anxiety. A recent review has shown that music therapy in particular is ideal for those with severe depression. However, simply playing music at home (and listening to music) can help soothe stress and sadness – a fact which highlights the key role that music can play in the lives of people of all ages.