A randomized controlled trial exploring the effect of music on agitated behaviours and anxiety in older people with dementia

Aging Ment Health. 2010 Nov;14(8):905-16. doi: 10.1080/13607861003713190.


Objectives: This study, as part of a larger programme of research, sought to investigate the effect that participation in a 40-min live group music programme, involving facilitated engagement with song-singing and listening, three times a week for eight weeks, had on agitation and anxiety in older people with dementia.

Methods: A randomized cross-over design, with music and reading control groups, was employed. Forty-seven participants with mild-moderate dementia, from two aged care facilities in Queensland, Australia, were recruited. Participants were assessed three times on the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory-Short Form (CMAI-SF) and the Rating Anxiety in Dementia Scale (RAID).

Results: A sub-analysis of 24 participants attending ≥50% of music sessions found a significant increase in the frequency of verbal aggression over time, regardless of group (F(2,46) = 3.534, p < 0.05). A series of multiple regressions found cognitive impairment, length of time living in the facility and gender to be predictors of agitation overall and by subtype.

Conclusion: Participation in the music programme did not significantly affect agitation and anxiety in older people with dementia. Both the music and reading group activities, however, gave some participants a 'voice' and increased their verbalization behaviour. Agitation was found to be predicted by a number of background factors (namely level of cognitive impairment, length of time in the facility and gender). Future studies would benefit more from in-depth participant assessment prior to study commencement, helping to moderate the influence of low scores, and by undertaking interventions at times when assessed symptoms are most prevalent.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Bibliotherapy
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Music Therapy*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / complications
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy*
  • Queensland
  • Regression Analysis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome