Agitation is a common problem in patients suffering from dementia and encompasses a variety of behaviors such as repetitive acts, restlessness, wandering, and aggressive behaviors. Agitation reduces the probability of positive social interaction and increases the psychological and organizational burden. While medical interventions are common, there is need for complementary or alternative methods. Music intervention has been brought forward as a promising method to reduce agitation in dementia. While interventions, target groups and research designs differ, there has so far not been a systematic overview assessing the effect of music intervention for agitation in patients with dementia. A meta-analysis was conducted in order to investigate possible effects of music interventions. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria. Music intervention had a medium overall effect on agitation in dementia, suggesting robust clinical relevance. While the moderate number of studies does not allow for further differentiation between sub-types of music intervention, the sub-group comparisons indicated promising pathways for future systematic reviews. This meta-analysis is the first systematic and quantitative overview supporting clinically and statistically robust effects of music intervention on agitation in dementia. The analysis provides further arguments for this non-pharmacological approach and highlights needs for future systematic research reviews for the investigation of intervention types.
Keywords: agitation; dementia; meta-analysis; music intervention; therapy.