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Music & Wellness

Scientific Study Indicates That Music Making

Makes The Elderly Healthier

– Significant Decreases in Anxiety, Depression, and Loneliness Resulted Following Keyboard LessonsA breakthrough study demonstrates that group keyboard lessons given to older Americans significantly improved anxiety, depression, and loneliness scores – three factors that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system, and improving health.

Frederick Tims, Ph.D., MT-BC, Chair of Music Therapy at Michigan State University, who was also principal investigator for a University of Miami Alzheimer’s project on music therapy, led a highly respected team of researchers to conduct the study. He presented the findings during a two-day symposium called Music Medicine: Enhancing Health Through Music, the first symposium of a series examining integrative medicine and alternative therapies. The symposium was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, Florida.
Called the Music Making and Wellness project, the study is a joint effort of five universities in cooperation with the American Music Therapy Association and Fletcher Music Centers. The study followed various health measures in 130 people during 1998. The experimental group consisted of 61 retirees taking group keyboard lessons in Florida over a period of two 10-week semesters. The health measures were administered before the lessons and after each semester. The control group included 69 retirees in Michigan not receiving group keyboard lessons, with the health measures administered at the same times as the experimental group in Florida. The Michigan control group was a good comparison group for the Florida group, since both were equivalent with respect to age, gender, and ethnicity. Forty-five men and 85 women participated in the study. Slightly more than onehalf of the participants in each group were married.
In three separate areas, important quality of life measures showed a significant change from pre to post-test in the experimental group (keyboard group), with no change occurring in the control group. On the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) Anxiety scores, anxiety decreased in the keyboard group but not in the control group. This decrease in anxiety was evident early on and appeared after only 10 weeks of lessons, remaining after 20 weeks of lessons. Decreased anxiety is related to improvement in cognitive performance, as well as enhancing learning, decision-making, and feelings of well-being.
On the Profile of Mood States (POMS) Depression/Dejection scores, depression scores decreased in the keyboard group but not in the control group. These measures accounted for differences in life events and social support. Depression is a major problem in the aging population. With decreased depression scores, people report a brighter mood.