Evid Based Nurs 14:41-42 doi:10.1136/ebn1148
  • Care of the older person
  • Randomised controlled trial

Listening to music gives some quality-of-life benefit to older people in a small 4-week trial from Hong Kong

  1. Ruth McCaffrey
  1. Florida Atlantic University, Christine E Lynn College of Nursing, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ruth McCaffrey
    777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA; rmccaffr{at}

Commentry on: [CrossRef][Medline][Web of Science]Google Scholar.

Implications for nursing practice

  • Music listening may engage and stimulate older adults and increase interest in activities.

  • Music listening may increase relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety in older adults.

  • Music listening may increase physical as well as mental functioning in older adults.

  • Music listening is a non-invasive safe way that may improve the quality of life in older adults.

  • Patient musical preference plays a role in the ability of music to improve quality of life.

Implications for nursing research

  • Music listening should be studied with a larger sample of older adults and in those of different cultures.

  • Studies that use music listening daily, rather than weekly, to further understand the cumulative effects of music listening on quality of life in older adults should be undertaken.

  • The effects of music listening on physical function in older adults with disabilities and comorbid diseases should be studied.

  • The effect of music listening should be studied in those younger than 65 years of age and in children.


This randomised controlled study addressed the issues of quality of life among older adults. Populations around the world are ageing.1 For example, in the USA, the fastest growing population group are the ‘Old Old’ or those above 85.2 Therefore, studying methods to improve the quality of life in older adults, including functional and mental quality of life, are relevant to nursing.


A total of 66 community dwelling adults above 65 years of age were randomly assigned to the prepared music group (n=31) or the control group (n=35). In week 1 of the study, demographic information was collected from each participant, and the Quality of Life-SF36 Scale Version 2.0 Chinese version was completed. In the control group, no intervention was implemented, and the Quality of Life-SF36 was completed once a week for 4 weeks. Those in the music group, chose from 62 musical selections, placed on an MP3 player and listened to the preferred musical tape for 30 min each week. The researcher asked participants to relax their bodies and minds before starting to listen to the music. Immediately after each of the four 30 min weekly listening periods, the Quality of Life-SF36 was completed by the participants in the music group. Data were analysed using non-parametric tests including the Shapiro–Wilk test to examine normality of quality-of-life outcomes, Mann–Whitney U test to determine group differences and Friedman test to compare changes in quality-of-life outcomes.


Findings from the study demonstrated that older adults who listened to music had higher levels of physical function and general health than the non-music group by weeks 3 and 4. By week 4, the music group had increased levels of physical function, vitality and social functioning as well as lower bodily pain scores than the non-music group. These findings show that overall quality of life in the music group was improved by the music intervention. The researchers state that continued improvement in the quality-of-life scale scores over time indicates a cumulative effect of music listening in this group. The authors posit that music helps older adults connect with life experiences and increases levels of stimulation, thereby improving quality of the life.


This study provides evidence of music as a safe, inexpensive, useful intervention that nurses can use independently to assist older adults to improve their quality of life and relax in stressful situations. The study protocol of listening to music 30 min per week does not provide as strong a case for the cumulative effect of music listening compared with listening on a more regular basis, for example, daily, and therefore study results may have been more dramatic if participants had listened to music daily over 4-week period and completed the Quality of Life-SF36 weekly.

This study is consistent with other studies on use of music to improve quality of life in older adults, which have demonstrated quantitatively as well as qualitatively that older adults find music a valuable asset to improve quality of life.3 4 The Quality of Life-SF36 measure has been shown to be valid and reliable in measuring quality of life and includes eight subscales that provide a broader and more in-depth understanding in this study of how music listening affects different aspects of quality of life. The Quality of Life-SF36 provides information regarding how physical and functional aspects of quality of life are affected by music listening, which are unique to this study.


  • Competing interests None.


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