Two 2017 academic studies have shown that music has real and measurable positive effects for people with dementia.

The first study, published in the British Medical Journal in March, investigated the value of a range of non-pharmacological interventions for the treatment of behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia.

It analysed the results of 142 previous studies into a wide range of interventions including acupressure, aromatherapy, light therapy, cognitive stimulation, music therapy, dance, reminiscence therapy, behavioural management techniques and animal-based therapies.

The study found that “among sensory simulation interventions, the only convincingly effective intervention for reducing behavioural symptoms (specifically agitation and aggressive behaviour) was music therapy. According to the most comprehensive review of music therapy, this treatment also reduced anxiety.”

Whilst acknowledging that further research was needed, the study concluded that “the most promising treatments appeared to be music therapy and some behavioural management techniques.”

The second study was titled “Effects of Music on Agitation in Dementia: A Meta-Analysis” and was published in Frontiers in Psychology in May.

In this study, the researchers carried out a rigorous statistical analysis of previous music studies which showed that “music intervention significantly reduces agitated behaviors in demented people.”

They concluded that their study “provides evidence for the effectiveness of music intervention in treatment of agitation in dementia” and that it “validates a non-pharmacological approach in treatment of agitation, a particular detrimental symptom of dementia.”

These studies add to the growing body of evidence that music can have a powerful effect for people with dementia. 

Check our research page for more information on how music works.