Background: There is an emerging view that music-related interventions (MuRI) may play an important role for youth with mental disorders. Here, we assessed the potential neuroendocrine (cortisol), immune (IgA) and psychological (mood state, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), well-being) efficacy of a brief program of MuRI (group singing versus group music listening) in children and adolescents with mental disorders in a clinical setting.
Methods: We performed this observational pilot study with 17 patients (aged 1118; 11 female) admitted to the Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/PMU Salzburg, Austria between March 2015 and April 2016. Patients participated in either a singing program or a music listening program, delivered through five daily, consecutive 45-minute sessions in one week.
Outcomes: Saliva samples for cortisol and IgA, and subjective measures of mood were taken daily, pre- and post-MuRI. HRQOL and well-being were measured pre- and post-5-day-program of MuRI. The program in singing led to a significantly larger mean drop in cortisol than in music listening (mean difference: 0·32; 95% CI 0·57 to 0·07), while listening led to a significantly higher mean positive change in the dimension calmness (mean difference: 2·66, 95%CI 4·99 to 0·33) than singing. Moreover, singing was associated with an improvement in HRQOL, and listening with an improvement in well-being.
Interpretation: Our preliminary findings suggest that MuRI may provide benefits for children and adolescents with mental disorders. The differences in psychobiological responses to singing and music listening invite further investigations. A larger, suitably powered study is now needed to provide a precise estimate of the effects of MuRI for mental health promotion, both on psychological and biological experiences. Funding: Salzburg Festival, Austria, and Focus Area ‘Science and Art, Salzburg, Austria.