London: Music therapy can reduce depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems, according to the largest ever study of its kind.
The researchers at Queen's University Belfast in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.
The study also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.
In the study which took place between March 2011 and May 2014, 251 children and young people were involved.
They were divided into two groups - 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care.
All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.
"This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy's ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen's University is advancing knowledge and changing lives," said Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and co-researcher.
"Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomised controlled trial in a clinical setting," said Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.
"The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option," Reilly said.