Stress occurs as any unpleasant reaction of people have to undue pressure. Excessive stress has been shown to cause psychosocial health problems, reduced self-worth, academic performance, and healthy self-development. Stress has also been seen as the cause of major health challenges like migraine, ulcer, chronic pain, and rheumatoid arthritis) facing people. Stress reduces the human immune system, appetite, desire and general intellectual ability.
Literature has decried the increasing proportion of stress victims globally. In a school setting, about 10% of students are suffering from various kinds of psychological and physiological problems because of stress. Specifically, stressors in educational institutions appeared to be more prevalent among students.[6,7] Students across Nigeria have been regarded as being highly stressed out as they face numerous stress-induced situations/stressors. The stressors may include insecurity, inadequate supply of power, poor ICT facilities, insufficient water supply, preparation for examinations under deleterious conditions. Others include ceaseless interruption of the academic calendar as a result of strikes by workers/students. These situations make university students prone to several health challenges. Because of the unhealthy and stressful condition Nigerian students are faced with, many of them end up being on admission in the various university medical centres. Academic stress has become a common problem among students in schools and the coping strategies adopted may reflect in their academic performance.[10,11] The situation has reduced productivity among students in Nigeria and therefore calls for research.
In the United States, for example, research showed that in every ten students, 4 often face significant stress. As they feel stressed most of the time, they are often preoccupied with thoughts of suicide. Similarly, Stallman, and Eweniyi have pointed out that Nigerian students are more vulnerable to mental and psychological problems than all other students in the world, but they rarely receive the assistance of helping professionals. Consequently, the emotional and cognitive responses of the students seem unguarded and negative. The negative responses of students to stress have caused/brought about a rise in frustration, suicides and mental cases in our universities, and it has also affected their academic behaviour. Every individual has a certain number of coping strategies, and once these coping resources are challenged or exceeded, stress usually results. The extent to which undergraduates are able to manage these challenges may determine their academic growth. Many researchers in education and behavioural science have conducted extensive research on stress and concluded that the topic needs more attention.[17–19] Based on that, we assumed that music therapy might be useful in helping students to cope with stress.
Music therapy is a goal-directed and therapeutic approach in which music is used to improve, sustain, and restore a state of well-being in individuals. Music therapy involves the use of music to maintain and improve the general wellbeing of people. It is a therapeutic interaction that enhances the psychological, physical, emotional and social well-being of people. Music has been recognized as a non-medical treatment approach for behavioural and health problems. Music is referred to as a therapy because it reduces activity disturbances, aggressiveness and anxiety in patients. The effectiveness of music does not only help for mood relaxation but could also serve as a reinforcer for non-music behaviours.
Literature suggests that the content of music therapy offers innate reinforcement and thus the motivation for attendance to school.[23,24] Music therapy improves mood states, reduces symptoms of severe mental illness as well as behavioural disorders in students.[27,28] Music therapy encourages patients with brain injuries and neurological diseases to participate in exercises and activities. In addition, O’Kelly and Koffman indicated that music therapy is a suitable therapeutic intervention for treating individuals with pains. Given the importance, exposing patients to vocal improvisations, miming, and music-guided breathing exercises could improve cognitive and emotional relaxation; making them to become less attentive to stressful events. Therefore, one could suggest that the assistance of a music therapist facilitates thoughts and feelings when listening to composed music.[31,32] Among the techniques one could adopt in music therapeutic activities is relaxation.
Relaxation technique is often use alongside music therapy. Relaxation combined with music alters thoughts, emotions and elicit relaxation responses. Relaxation technique has been described to be a powerful measure in reducing the stress level of people.[35,36] The author remarked that pharmacological intervention could be alternated with relaxation technique because it is a cheap and simple way to relieve stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Despite that music therapy functions as a vehicle that facilitates moods and feelings of relaxation, evidence on the significant impact of music therapy with relaxation on stress management in developing countries like Nigeria is still very rare.
The main objective of the present study is to examine the effectiveness of music therapy with relaxation on stress management among undergraduate students in Nigeria. Based on the objective, it was hypothesized that music therapy with relaxation technique would significantly improve stress management among undergraduate students in the treatment group, compared with those in the waitlist control group.
2.1 Ethical approval
Faculty of Education, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria approved this study. It was also conducted in line with the American Psychological Association established Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct.
The study adopted a pretest-posttest control group design.
2.3 Power analysis
We determined the power of the sample size using G*Power 3.1.3. The power analysis gave a power of 0.94 which showed that the sample size was adequate.
2.4 Eligibility criteria
The researchers used perceived stress scale (PSS) by Cohen, Kamarck and Mermelstein to determine the eligibility of the undergraduate students. This informed the basis for the recruitment of participants from different universities which lasted for a period of 3 months. In addition, another inclusion criterion is having spent 3 years in the university, leaving in school hostel, and being readily available for the study based on convenience while some volunteers willingly declined to participate in the study, those of them who did not meet the eligibility criteria were as well excluded. The eligible participants were asked to provide their contact numbers and e-mail addresses for the researchers. The aim of the contact numbers and e-mail addresses was to be in touch with them during the treatment. However, those who volunteered to participate were instructed to complete a written inform consent form for each procedure that was taken.
The participants for the study were 142 students from universities in the Southeast Nigeria. Prior to the commencement of the screening and the treatment, the researchers asked the participants to complete a written informed consent. The participants were selected based on the inclusion criteria.
Table 1 shows that the mean age of the music intervention group was 21.84 ± 4.92 years, and that of the waitlist control group was 20.54 ± 4.16 years (χ 2 = .306, P = .653). The music intervention group comprised 29 males (40.3%) and 43 (59.7%) females; the waitlist control group comprised 31 men (44.3%) and 39 (55.7%) women. The results also showed that no significant gender difference was observed in the evaluation of the intervention among the participants (χ 2 = .234, P = .734). In the music intervention group, 24 participants (33.3%) were in their first year, 21 participants (29.3%) were in second year, and 27 (37.5%) was in third year. For the participants in the waitlist control group, 26 participants (37.1%) were in their first year, 19 participants (27.1%) were in second year, and 25 (35.7%) was in third year (χ 2 = .229, P = .932). For ethnicity, in the treatment group, 9 (12.5%) was from Hausa, 39 (54.2%) was from Igbo, 11 (15.3%) was from Yoruba, and 13 (18.1%) was from other minor ethnic groups. In the waitlist control group, 7 (10.0%) was from Hausa, 41 (58.6%) was from Igbo, 13 (18.6%) was from Yoruba, and 9 (12.9%) was from other minor ethnic groups (χ 2 = 1.17, P = .754).
We visited all the federal universities in the Southeast Nigeria between May and October 2016, to notify them about and explain the music therapy with a relaxation technique. The researchers explained the objectives of the study to those potential participants from various universities. Thereafter, 250 students indicated interest to participate in the study which led them to be screened for eligibility. After ascertaining the eligibility of the participants, we conducted a recruitment exercise at different universities that lasted for a period of 3 months (from February 2016 to April 2017). A pretest was conducted before the music therapy with relaxation technique (“Time 1”) to acquire baseline data. Those students (n = 142) with a high levels of stress were selected as participants.
The researchers thereafter enrolled the eligible participants into a treatment group and a waitlist control group using a simple randomization. This procedure allowed the participants to pick one envelope from a container. However, the envelopes were classified into 2 whereby each envelope contained pressure-sensitive paper labelled with “T” (for the treatment group) and the other “WC” for waitlist control. The procedure brought about a total of 72 participants for the music therapy program and 70 for the waitlist control condition (see Fig. 1).
The music therapy with relaxation intervention was delivered by the music therapists and counsellors. The intervention lasted for 3 months (May to July 2017). The group meetings were scheduled twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks. Two follow-up meetings were conducted at each of 2 additional time points (3, 6 months after the final session). Each session lasted for 45 minutes for a music session and 15 minutes of relaxation exercise. Participants were exposed to vocal improvised music, live music, and pre-recorded music in addition to deep and slow breathing and rhythmic activities throughout the treatment sessions. They were provided with stress relief chairs where they relaxed listening to the performed music to boost participants’ mood or reduce their stress responses. The end of every music performance, participants had deep and slow breath and relaxation muscles that lasted for 5 seconds in each session. About 72 pieces of mattresses (6 inches) were used at the end of every session. They were instructed to lie on the bed (mattress), relax (uncrossed) their foot legs, avoid intrusive thoughts and close their eyes in counselling rooms for about 15 minutes.
The study was conducted in parallel with the academic programme in the universities in southeastern Nigeria. Ten musicians (5 men and 5 women) participated in the first session, which consisted of an introduction to relaxation technique in a specific therapeutic method. The musicians were 3 drummers, 3 vocalists, 2 guitarists, 1 pianist, and 1 violinist. The researchers took account of their genres of professional music experiences which include blues, opera, rock, theatre, pop, classical and folk music. During therapy, the researchers ensured that individual participants readily understood the rhythmic features and relaxation impulses expressed when the experts were singing. The tones of the voices afforded the participants involuntary relaxation. This manifested in their body responses. The music therapists and counsellors explained to the participants the connection between activating events in the school, interpretation of school situation, and the emotional and behavioural consequences that occur because of their academic pursuit. Participants were also taught how to practise relaxation techniques on their own without the therapists being there, through written instructions emailed to them. Post intervention evaluation was blinded.
PSS is a 14-item scale developed by Cohen et al The PSS is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful. The items were designed to show how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded the respondents find their lives. The scale also includes a number of direct queries about their current levels of experienced stress. The scale was used because of its global recognition in assessing stress. The PSS was designed on a 5-point scale (0 = Never 1 = Almost Never 2 = Sometimes 3 = Fairly Often 4 = Very Often”). PSS scores were obtained by reversing the scores on the seven positive items (e.g., 0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, and 4 = 0), (items 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 13) and then summing across all scale items. In this study, the low score on the scale 1 to 21 indicated low-stress level, the score of 22 to 42 indicated moderate stress; and the score of 43 and above indicated high-stress level. Cronbach coefficient of reliability for the PSS was 0.86α.
Music Therapy with Relaxation Manual: This is a self-developed manual by the researchers with the aim of addressing negative perception of stress-induced events among students using music therapy with a relaxation technique. Previous related studies were reviewed in the course of the development of this manual.[31,32] Copies of the manual were certified by music therapists, counsellors, and psychotherapists. The intervention manual contained stress management and therapeutic techniques for undergraduate students. The manual lasted for 12 weeks (2 sessions a week). Each session lasted for 60 minutes (45 minutes for music session with 15 minutes of relaxation practice exercise). In additions to that were 2 follow-up meetings, a week apart, and 2 additional time points (3, 6 months after the final session). In the manual, provision was made for the music therapists to offer live music for the participants based on their mood. Music of different languages (Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa), backgrounds and melodies were played. Participants were invited to narrate their experiences which were followed up with vocal improvisations, miming, and music-guided breathing exercises. The information given helped the therapists to create participants’ music playlists using their phones which they were asked to practise at home.
2.9 Data analyses
This study employed repeated measures within-between subjects analysis of variance (ANOVA) as the data was normally distributed. The assumption of the sphericity of repeated measure analysis of variance was tested using Mauchly test of sphericity. This test was not significant (Mauchly W = 0.789, P = .851), implying that the assumption was not violated. Thus, the variances of the differences between all combinations of the related measures are equal. The effect size was ascertained using partial η2 at each time point. In the analysis, the confidence intervals (CI) of each assessment were also reported. The within-subjects variables were time points. Group was entered as the between-subjects factors. There were no missing values in the data after screening was concluded.
The results in Table 2 show the study outcomes for the participants in the music therapy with relaxation group compared to the waitlist control group over 3 periods. At Time 1, based on the PSS, the ANOVA Test also indicated that there were no baseline differences in stress management level between participants in the treatment and waitlist control conditions, F(1, 140) = 0.659, P = .418,
Based on the PSS, a repeated measure ANOVA revealed a significant treatment by time interaction effect for levels of academic stress, F(1, 140) = 2501.9, P = .000,
. Follow-up tests (Time 3) revealed significant reductions in levels of stress management, F(1, 140) = 83.071,
, for the music therapy with relaxation group whereas participants in the waitlist control group showed no such changes. Follow-up tests (Time 4) also revealed significant reductions in levels of stress management, F(1, 140) = 167.636, P = .000; for the music therapy with relaxation group whereas participants in the waitlist control group showed no such changes (see Table 2).
Figure 2: As can be seen in Figure 2, significant reductions in levels of stress management were observed at both post-intervention and follow-up in those participants exposed to music therapy with relaxation technique compared with those in the waitlist control group.
The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of music therapy with relaxation technique on stress management in a sample of undergraduate students in Nigeria. The finding indicated that there were no baseline differences in levels of stress management between participants in the treatment and waitlist control conditions. Our finding revealed that music therapy with relaxation technique had significant improvement in the management of stress for the music intervention group whereas participants in the waitlist control group showed no such changes. Furthermore, the positive effect of music therapy with relaxation was maintained at follow-up. This finding suggests that music therapy with relaxation technique decreased stress a lot. Similar studies in other countries also found the usefulness of music therapy with relaxation technique in treating clinical and non-clinical conditions. For example, a case control study conducted in Iceland by Svansdottir and Snaedal found that music therapy is an approach that reduces activity disturbances, aggressiveness, and anxiety among patients. Music intervention has been described as a relevant therapeutic approach found to improve mood states. Likewise in France, research showed that music therapy with relaxation is a powerful strategy that alters negative thoughts, emotions and elicits relaxation responses. In line with our finding, Uyar and Korhan reported a reduction of pain intensity and severity of anxiety among stressed patients exposed to music session in Turkey. A significant reduction in psychological deficits and symptoms among people in Iowa was found during classical music intervention. Our findings supported a meta-analysis study did by Bradt et al who showed that music therapy has significant impacts on anxiety, pain, and fatigue in patients with cancer. All in all, our finding lend credence to several othermpirical studies that have explored and reported the effectiveness of music therapy with relaxation technique in improving stress management level of patients with chronic pains.[43,35,36] No wonder, previous studies proved that medical students use music and relaxation significantly to decrease pain experience in people by affecting variables (environment, music therapists and participants) associated with quality of life.[44,7,43,45,46]
Previous studies have also confirmed the effectiveness of relaxation technique in reducing the level of stress-related health problems. A study conducted in Florida, United States, revealed that the relaxation technique is powerful in reducing the level of anxiousness among people. Reports from a semi-experimental and clinical trial study that evaluated the impact of relaxation techniques on stress among 76 infertile Iranian women showed that relaxation technique does not only decrease stress but balance emotional reactions. This is interesting as earlier studies also confirmed the effectiveness of relaxation training. But it is possible that students lack therapeutic support and assistance they need to cope with stressors; for this they may not know how to or are not prepared to manage academic stress. As suggested by the behavioural and emotional responses of the participants, lack of professional support contributed to the stress they experienced. These responses were common among first year students and students that came from other ethnic groups like Hausa and Yoruba. Because of this, lecturers and other members of staff are encouraged to relate to the psychological needs of the students, and provide them with necessary support, as doing so will help them in stress management. The experiences affect the overall dispositions students to learn in school environments. Notwithstanding previous studies conducted in Nigeria showed major sources of stress for Nigerian students. Among the sources are project writing in the face of limited materials, epileptic power supply, poor water supply, examination preparation, financial pressure, teachers’ incompetence, poor learning environment and insecurity, poor ICT facilities, and a constant strike among university staff.
Music is a relaxed therapy that is effective in treating stress and it helps in recalling lost memories.[21,52] This suggests that students’ stress was reduced using music therapy meaning that students can develop the open-mindedness needed in musicological therapy. This is because creative therapeutic experiences and reflective skills were sustained. This agrees with Petersson and Nyström who stated that open-mindedness is paramount and significant in the process of therapeutic change. In line with our finding, evidence showed that music therapy is effective in reducing all kinds of psychological symptoms among which are anxiety,[53,54] schizophrenia, physically or mentally handicapped patients, and school-related stress. The effectiveness of music therapy addresses with emotional problem, naturally increase neurochemicals, rehabilitate individuals with stress and mental illness improves motor control and well-being, direct physiologic effects through the autonomic nervous system, regulate motor and emotional responses, and positively modify the release of psychological stress hormones responsible for coordinating the functions of neurology, immunity, and respiration. Earlier studies had it that music therapy with relaxation technique reduces cognitive stressors whether it is a mild stressor, moderate stressor and severe stressors. Based on the finding of this study and investigations conducted by experts using different population and targeted various kinds of stress, we think that music session treats all kinds of stress.
4.1 Practice and policy implications
The outcome of this study has some practice implication for music therapists, health counsellors, school counsellors and behavioural medical experts. The effectiveness of music therapy and relaxation programme may be a powerful tool for music therapists and counsellors who provide counselling and medical services to students. Since music and relaxation technique ease stress that is associated with harmful effects, music therapy with relaxation technique may serve health staff domiciled in schools to control stress among students. It is important for helping professionals to develop therapeutic and management strategies to assist students and staff working in universities to overcome stress. Given that the music therapy with relaxation programme intervention has been used and showed a helpful impact, the researchers suggest further application of the intervention outside school settings.
There is a need for policies that will be tailored towards improving efficient and helpful stress management strategies to target the specific sources of stress by the institutions involved. Therefore, university administrations should enact policy-driven activities that will be focused on stress management strategies to ensure that the key stressors affecting students’ academic programme are addressed. These activities could be relaxation centres, rehabilitation programmes, musical entertainment, music therapists and study skill counselling. All of these should be holistically introduced in universities. Corroborative intervention programme should be introduced and administered to university students by psychotherapists to assist them in developing personal coping skills and lessen stress in university campuses. To maintain the effectiveness and significant benefit of music therapy with relaxation technique, university administration should collaborate with music professionals to organize music sessions every semester for university students and provide those limited resources which constitute stress to students. This would help to regulate the cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses of the students. Adherence to this will provide opportunity for Nigerians to benefit from the importance of music therapy with relaxation technique in a larger scale.
In the course of carrying out the current investigation, some limitations were noted. The investigation relied only on the self-report questionnaire as a tool for data collection. The fact that the questionnaire is a subjective source of data collection, we assumed that the participants may not have provided very objective responses to the items in the questionnaire. This, therefore, tends to limit the validity and generalizability of the research findings. However, the information provided by the study may be useful to special populations; it is important that future research also provides a qualitative and semi-qualitative evaluation of personal approach to stress by students.
The external and internal demands placed on undergraduate students for the purpose of fulfilling course requirements have become sources of psychological and physical stress to them. The psychological and physical stress is education-related and has reduced their achievement level. Music therapy with relaxation programme significantly reduced levels of academic-related stress in those participants exposed to the treatment intervention, relative to the waitlist control group. It was also found that the positive effect of the music therapy and relaxation programme was sustained at follow-up. All in all, it would be helpful if future studies examine the mechanism of therapeutic change in the academic-related stress level of undergraduate students benefitting from the music therapy and relaxation programme within Nigeria and outside Nigeria. The researchers, therefore, conclude that despite that music therapy with relaxation programme is effective in the Southeast Nigeria, further evaluation is still required in other parts of Nigeria as well as in other countries.
The authors hereby appreciate the study participants and research assistants who participated and accompanied the authors during treatment and follow-up stages with honesty, patience and passion.
Conceptualization: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Janet N. Igbo.
Data curation: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Janet N. Igbo, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Kingsley C. Amadi, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Formal analysis: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Janet N. Igbo.
Funding acquisition: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Investigation: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Methodology: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna.
Project administration: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna.
Resources: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Kingsley C. Amadi, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Software: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Faith C. Omeke, Kingsley C. Amadi, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Supervision: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Kingsley C. Amadi, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Validation: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
Visualization: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Edith N. Nwokenna.
Writing – original draft: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna.
Writing – review & editing: Francisca N. Ogba, Moses O. Ede, Charity Onyishi, Patricia U. Agu, Amaka B. Ikechukwu-Ilomuanya, Janet N. Igbo, Nkechi Egenti, Ifeyinwa Manafa, Chijioke Amoke, Nneka Nwosu, Faith C. Omeke, Bernedeth N. Nwafor, Kingsley C. Amadi, Edith N. Nwokenna, Samuel C. Ugwoke.
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