Art, Music, DanceElderlyPalliative/End of Life

Music to manage anxiety during palliative care

 Researchers from the Calvary Health Care Bethlehem in Melbourne, Australia studied the effectiveness of a single music therapy session in reducing anxiety among terminally ill patients.

First, the details.

  • 25 participants with end-stage terminal disease who were receiving inpatient hospice services participated.
  • They were randomly assigned to a single music therapy session or a volunteer visit.
  • Anxiety levels were measured using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS).
  • Changes in heart rate were also monitored.

And, the results.

  • There was significantly less anxiety in the music vs control group.
  • There was no difference in heart rate.
  • Significant reductions in pain, tiredness, and drowsiness were also recorded in the music group vs the group that received a visit.

The bottom line?
The results support the value of music therapy in terminally ill patients. The authors believe, “further studies are required to examine the effect of music therapy over a longer time period, as well as addressing other symptom issues.”

Dr. Perry Fine — an anesthesiologist from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — has reviewed CAM in managing pain at the end of life. Regarding music therapy, he concluded the following.

  • Reduces anxiety and improves mood
  • Low-cost
  • May reduces chronic pain
  • Improves quality of life by enhancing comfort and relaxation
  • Doesn’t interfere with technical aspects of care

Researchers from the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Santa Clara, California reported that music therapy in palliative care is cost effect as well.

A discussion of music therapists and therapy — who they are and what they do — is here.

10/19/08 16:10 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.