Journal scan

Looking at the use of music to reduce stress in older patients

Attending an emergency department may cause anxiety and distress for some older adults, but can music reduce the stress they experience?

Attending an emergency department (ED) may cause anxiety and distress for some older adults, but can music reduce the stress they experience?


Picture: iStock

In this US study, researchers evaluated the effect of listening to music on the anxiety levels of ED patients over the age of 65 and without hearing problems.

The subjects who consented to participate were randomly assigned to one of two groups while receiving routine care. Those in the treatment group were given headphones and an electronic tablet with five choices of pre-downloaded music. The control group received routine care with no music. Three-quarters of the subjects were women and 32 of the 35 participants completed the study protocol.

‘These pilot results suggest that music listening may be an effective tool for reducing anxiety among older adults in the ED’

A measure called the state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI), administered at enrolment and one hour later, was used to assess changes in anxiety levels.

At enrolment there were no significant differences in STAI scores between control and intervention subjects. But one hour after enrolment, STAI scores were significantly reduced in the group who had listened to music.

The researchers conclude: ‘These pilot results suggest that music listening may be an effective tool for reducing anxiety among older adults in the ED.’


Belland L, Rivera-Reyes, Hwang U (2017) Using music to reduce anxiety among older adults in the emergency department: a randomized pilot study. Journal of Integrative Medicine. 15, 6, 450-455.

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs