The use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of depressive symptoms has its disadvantages, therefore various complementary treatments have been sought and included to reduce depressive symptoms. The use of music as a healing intervention has been well documented throughout history. Even though there are many benefits to the use of music as a potential intervention, little is known about the efficacy of music listening in the mediation of depressive symptoms.
The objective of this review was to determine the effectiveness of music listening in reducing depressive symptoms in adults.
Types of participants This review included studies on adult men and women (aged 18 years and above) with depression or depressive symptoms.
Types of intervention The review focused on studies that investigated music listening as an intervention for depressive symptoms.
Types of outcomes The primary outcome measures examined were changes in depressive symptoms as quantified via validated depression scale scores.
Types of studies Randomised controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, interrupted time series (ITSs) and controlled before and after designs were included.
A literature search ranging from the 1989 to January 2010, was conducted using major electronic databases. A three-stage search strategy was utilized in the process of the search to ensure that all studies that met the inclusion criteria were included.
The quality of the included studies was subjected to assessment by two independent reviewers using the critical appraisal checklists for experimental studies from the JBI-MAStARI (Joanna Briggs Institute-Meta Analysis of Statistics Assessment and Review Instrument).
Data extraction/data synthesis
Data were extracted from included papers using the standardized extraction tool from the JBI -MAStARI. Quantitative data were grouped together and combined into a meta-analysis for the assessment of the overall efficacy of an intervention were appropriate. Narrative formats were used when meta-analysis was not appropriate.
From the overall results, the evidence offers some support that music listening over a period of time helps to reduce depressive symptoms in the adult population.
Implications for practice
- Music listening for the purpose of reducing depressive symptoms is not recommended over a short period of time or for a single episode of care.
- Even though daily intervention does not seem to be superior over weekly intervention, it is recommended that music listening session be conducted repeatedly over a time span of more than three weeks to allow an accumulative effect to occur.
- It is recommended that the listeners are given choices over the kind of music which they listen to.
- All types of music can be used as listening material, depending on the preferences of the listener.
Implications for research
There is a need to conduct more studies, which replicate the designs used in the existing studies that met the inclusion criteria, on the level of efficacy of music listening on the reduction of depressive symptoms for a more accurate meta-analysis of the findings and reflect with greater accuracy the significant effects that music has on the level of depressive symptoms.