Comparison of Recreational Music and Music Therapy in Older Adults

One topic that we have been interested in at MTRB is a comparison between music therapy and recreational music making. A recent study compared the two with older adults experiencing depression.

Wener, Wosch & Gold (2015) conducted a pragmatic trial in German nursing homes. One hundred and seventeen participants were grouped into four clusters that were based on their wards. Sixty two people participated in interactive group music therapy for 40 minutes 2xs per week, fifty-five people participated in recreational group singing for 90 minutes one time per week. Depression was assessed using a depression rating scale at baseline and then at 6 and 12 weeks.

Results indicated that individuals in the interactive music therapy groups experienced significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms when compared to recreational singing group. This was found at 6 and 12 weeks.

This article is interesting because it compares active engagement with a trained music therapists as opposed to recreational singing in a group. Most people would agree that music making can be beneficial for many different needs; however, this article provides some evidence that music making may not be as effective as music engagement that is facilitated by a trained therapist.

The music therapy approach in this study is reported to be holistic and highly person-centered. The music therapy group engaged in signing, receptive music therapy , dance/movement, and instrumental improvisation. The sessions also included verbal reflection.

I hope as the profession of music therapy grows we will see more studies comparing music therapy involvement with recreational music making. This will help us to better determine types of music engagement that will be appropriate for different needs in different populations.

Werner, J., Wosch, T., & Gold, C. (2015). Effectiveness of group music therapy versus recreational group singing for depressive symptoms of elderly nursing home residents: Pragmatic trial. Aging Ment Health, 12, 1-9. PMID: 26457893