Does regular listening to preferred music have a beneficial effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety amongst older people in residential care? The qualitative findings of a mixed methods study.


  • Fiona Costa University of Roehampton
  • Adam Ockelford University of Roehampton
  • David J Hargreaves University of Roehampton



This article presents the qualitative findings of a mixed-methods evaluation of the effects of listening to preferred music on depression and anxiety in older people in residential care. One hundred and seventeen participants were recruited from nine care homes, all but one in Greater London. The homes varied in size and management style, and participants came from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to their usual routine, each participant listened to a daily 30-minute programme of their preferred music for three weeks. Both quantitative and qualitative data relating to anxiety and depression were collected during once-weekly semi-structured interviews. Findings from the qualitative data showed that listening to preferred music resulted in relaxation, positive reminiscence, less depression and less boredom. Physical reactions, such as ‘chills’ or tears, demonstrated emotional arousal; others, such as foot-tapping were beneficial to the most disabled participants. The use of preferred and favourite music was the principal facilitator of its effectiveness, whilst declines in memory, confidence and energy were barriers to the research procedure. It was concluded that listening to preferred music can bring some relief to depression and anxiety amongst older care home residents but that not all will benefit to the same degree.

Author Biographies

Fiona Costa, University of Roehampton

Visiting research fellow, Department of Education

Adam Ockelford, University of Roehampton

Professor of Music, Applied Music Research Centre.

David J Hargreaves, University of Roehampton

Professor of Education



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