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Music Therapy Reduces Depression in Kids

By The Editor, 2014-10-26

Teachers and counselors will tell you - There's a lot of of depressed kids at school. Then what happens? They act out. That is bad for the students, difficult for the family and expensive for all the care agencies.

Summary: Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems, a study has found.

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.

In the largest ever study of its kind, the researchers in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery fund, also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.

251 children and young people were involved in the study which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups -- 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioral problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.

Professor Sam Porter of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen's University, who led the study, said: "This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs."

Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and co-researcher, added: "This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy's ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen's University is advancing knowledge and changing lives."

Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, said: "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 trial in a clinical setting.

The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects."

The research team will now look at the data to establish how cost-effective music therapy is in relation to other treatments. The research findings will be presented at a conference in Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast today (Thursday 23 October 2014).

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University, Belfast.


This is absolutely no surprise to advocates for bringing music back into schools. And why? Not only are there many beneficial reasons for the teaching of music (and all it need be is regular singing), but the right music programs would likely forestall, or stem the onset of depression with kids. The cost benefit is huge when you consider the time and money schools have to spend on behaviorally maladjusted students. 

One might object: Don't kids get enough of a diet of music already? They always have their head stuffed with music from TV and digital devices!

Really! Do you imagine that most of the stuff they listen do does them much good? Need we go into this?

If you catch kids early enough, and sustain education in music appreciation, singing, and - to the extent possible - instumental playing, right through to 6th grade and beyond, we may expect to see significant improvements in student behavior, mood, and attentiveness. You could not put a price on that. So let's have the courage to put music in the budget for the coming years.


I used to run On Campus Suspension for the "bad kids" at two junior high schools. One day, without warning, I started playing the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana - one of the world's most sublime pieces of music IMO!! Slowly, the kids all stopped working and just listened. They were spellbound by the beauty. Do we get the point?

Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient. Yehudi Menuhin

Reference: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05936.x/full



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