Study Shows Value of Receptive Music Therapy for Patients with Dementia

July 11, 2018

Music therapy has long been demonstrated to effectively relieve agitation and behavioral issues among people with dementia. However, the effectiveness of specific methods of music engagement has received less study and has remained uncertain. Now a new study in the July issue of JAMDA, which features a special focus on care of persons with dementia, indicates that receptive music therapy, where people strictly listen to music—as opposed to playing or singing along—appears to be more effective in reducing agitation, behavioral problems, and anxiety in older individuals with dementia.

In “Receptive Music Therapy Is More Effective than Interactive Music Therapy to Relieve Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” the authors reviewed 38 trials involving the use of music therapy for 1,418 participants with dementia. The results showed that participants involved with receptive music therapy had significant decreases in agitation and behavioral problems, compared with “usual care” without this therapy. Meanwhile, there was no significant difference in behavioral problems and psychiatric symptoms between interactive music therapy and usual care.

“Receptive music therapy adopts a passive approach that can be more implementable and less costly than … interactive music therapy,” the authors said. Therefore, this “appears to be a suitable intervention to apply to nursing homes, day care centers, and client homes for older adults with dementia.”

It is important to consider the value of music therapy, the authors noted, as “nonpharmacologic intervention has been suggested as a viable treatment strategy for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.” Additionally, such interventions present the additional benefit of having “no apparent adverse effects.” Hence, the authors suggested, these efforts may help reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs for behavioral symptoms.

This study was conducted by researchers at the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, the Stanley Ho Big Data Decision Analytics Research Center, and the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, all at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

For more information on the findings above and more details about the study, click here. To contact the researchers or JAMDA editor for an interview, please email



JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. JAMDA publishes peer-reviewed articles including original studies, reviews, clinical experience articles, case reports, and more, on all topics more important to post-acute and long-term care medicine. Visit for more information.

About the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine is the only medical specialty society representing the community of over 50,000 medical directors, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other practitioners working in the various post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) settings. Dedicated to defining and improving quality, we advance our mission through timely professional development, evidence-based clinical guidance, and tireless advocacy on behalf of members, patients, families, and staff. Visit for more information.