Music can reduce depression says Finnish Study

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An interesting study by researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, has found that music therapy can be beneficial in the treatment of depression. The results of the study revealed that in the short term at least, those who received music therapy alongside standard therapy, showed a greater improvement in symptoms of depression than those receiving standard therapy alone.

The Study

The study, which was led by Professor Jaakko Erkkilä and Professor Christian Gold, involved 79 people aged between 18 and 50, each of whom had been diagnosed with depression. Of the 79 participants, 33 were given individual music therapy sessions twice a week as well as their standard treatment, and the rest of the participants just received the standard treatment alone. Standard treatment included anti depressant medication and counselling/psychotherapy sessions.

After a follow up at 3 months, those who had received music therapy showed a greater improvement than the others and had fewer symptoms of depression. There was no statistical difference after six months.

Specific qualities

“Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care including medication, psychotherapy and counselling, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety” said Professor Gold.

“Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way – even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.”

Cathartic experience

According to Professor Erkkilä people were able to express their inner pressure and feelings by drumming and that some described it as “cathartic”.

“Our findings now need to be repeated with a larger sample of people, and further research is needed to assess the cost-effectiveness of such therapy” said professor Erkkilä

Improve mood and general functioning

The findings of the Finnish study have been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Dr Mike Crawford, a specialist in Mental Health Services Research, Imperial College, London, wrote in an editorial in the same journal:

“This is a high-quality randomised trial of music therapy specifically for depression, and the results suggest that it can improve the mood and general functioning of people with depression. Music-making is social, pleasurable and meaningful. It has been argued that music making engages people in ways that words may simply not be able to.”

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