The personal benefits of musicking for people living with dementia: a thematic synthesis of the qualitative literature

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • C Milligan
  • N Ponsillo
  • L Geddes
  • B Riley


Background: This review aimed to explore the psychological, social and emotional benefits of taking part in music activities for people living with dementia through a systematic review of the qualitative literature.

Methods: Qualitative and mixed-method studies exploring the use of music for people living with dementia in a number of contexts were identified through a search of Psycinfo, CINAHL, Open Grey, Proquest Theses and Dissertations and Web of Science databases

Results: Eighteen studies were identified that covered a wide range of music programmes for people with dementia, with the majority of programs focusing on active musical participation. A thematic synthesis revealed four key benefits of music engagement for people with dementia, namely: Taking Part, Being Connected, Affirming Identity and Immersion ‘in the moment’.

Conclusions: Engaging with music has a number of psychological, social and emotional benefits for people with dementia. However, only seven of 18 studies actively included people with dementia in the research process. Going forward, it would appear essential that people with dementia are encouraged to take a more active role in research exploring musical experiences and that a heightened emphasis is placed upon participatory approaches to knowledge generation

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalArts & Health
Issue number3
Early online date8 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018