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Music therapy helps children with depression, study finds

By Ryan Maass
Music therapy helps children with depression, study finds
Children demonstrated improved self-esteem after being encouraged to make their own music with guitars, keyboards, drums, and other instruments. Photo by FirmBee/Pixabay

POOLE, England, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Music therapy may be an effective method for helping children and adolescents recover from depression, researchers suggest in a new study.

In a study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, scientists at Bournemouth University in England and Queen's University Belfast recruited 251 children between the ages of 8 and 16 years old. According to the authors, children who received the treatment demonstrated improved self-esteem and reduced depression compared to a control group that received conventional therapy.

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"This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs," first author Sam Porter said in a press release. "The findings contained in our report should be considered by healthcare providers and commissioners when making decisions about the sort of care for young people that they wish to support."

The study took place between March 2011 and May 2014. Children assigned to the experimental group received the Alvin model of "free improvisation," which encouraged them to create their own music and sound using their voice, instrument, or movement while receiving encouragement. Instruments included guitars, keyboards, drums, and xylophones.

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While music therapy has been connected to improved self-esteem in the past, the research team says their study provides more definitive evidence.

"Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomized controlled trail in a clinical setting," music therapy partner Ciara Reilly said. "The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option."

Going forward, researchers plan to evaluate how cost-effective music therapy is compared to more conventional methods.

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