Along with the countless accounts from healthcare professionals, patients and service users about the positive impacts of our service, an ever increasing body of research is contributing to a strong evidence base that advocates the need for live music in healthcare settings.

MiHC involvement in research

In 2013, following a detailed application for funding, we were awarded a grant to provide 120 live music concerts for a specific population group. Having given it some serious thought and being aware of the lack of detailed, contemporary research in our field, we decided to offer the project as a vehicle for research. Dr Nigel Marshall, together with Prof Kagari Shibazaki, then at Roehampton University, took up the challenge. Dr Marshall is now at the University of Sussex and Prof Shibazaki at the University of Huddersfield.
The research journey started with a focus on the benefits of live music to older people in healthcare and those with dementia. By the end of the project, Dr Marshall and Prof Shibazaki produced a paper “Exploring the impact of music concerts in promoting well-being in dementia care”.

Findings from this early research included the following:

  • Music provides substantial and significant benefits for all individuals who encounter the performance and not just clients. Based on the evidence, we can state that the musical performances provide significant benefits for care staff, musicians, nursing staff, managers and the families of clients.
  • Of all the activities which take place within each of the facilities, the musical performances are the most beneficial, far-reaching and significant in their effects. In some instances, clients will not take part in any organised activities – other than the musical performance.
  • Early results suggest that even those clients living with final stage dementia gain substantial benefits from the musical performances.
  • Musical skills and musical tastes appear to be present long after the capacity for conversation and particular aspects of the individual personality have disappeared.

Having developed such a close working relationship with Dr Marshall and Prof Shibazaki, the original research on which we had embarked became merely Phase 1 of an ongoing programme, which continues to this day. It is really very important to us at Music in Hospitals & Care to appreciate why our live music can have such a profound effect and how we can make the experiences even better for our beneficiaries.

Continuing the research programme Dr Marshall and Prof Shibazaki introduced the novel use of a small machine which was able to analyse one of the enzymes in saliva – Amylase. The levels of Amylase had a close correlation with stress and anxiety and thus they were able to bring some hard evidence to support the wealth of soft evidence that the project was producing. This resulted in a second paper in the Asian Journal of Human Sciences “Exploring the benefits and uses of Musical Experiences in the context of Dementia care”.

We are enormously grateful to both Nigel and Kagari for this research partnership which continues to produce valuable information on the impact we are having to various groups of adults and children, family members and other visitors as well as clinical and care staff in healthcare establishments. Two further papers have been published recently “Seeking Asylum: The Benefits for Clients, Family Members and Caregivers of Using Music in Hospice Care” and “Promoting well-being: Amylase as an indicator of changes in stress level in people with intellectual disabilities”.


Arts in older people’s care – proud to play our part in tackling isolation and loneliness
With a specific focus on access to arts for older people in care, MiHC is hugely proud to be part of a network of organisations which actively highlight the benefits of bringing the arts into care. This work is increasingly recognised and supported by other organisations, such as the Care Inspectorate, through their new campaign for ‘Arts in Care’.

Increased awareness and of the benefits of services like ours could not be more timely. With an ageing population and a predicted rise of 34% in the number of care home residents between 2011 and 2030, there will be a significant increase in the number of older people we need to reach.
(Innovate UK.Gov: Analysis of UK Long Term Care Market).

We recognise a strong need for the use of live music, and wider arts in healthcare settings; a need that is supported not only by the comments of care staff and musicians directly involved with our service, but also by larger bodies who acknowledge that shared participatory activities are essential for the relief of people who experience isolation and loneliness within care:

‘Social Group schemes are highlighted as one of the most effective interventions for
alleviating loneliness and social isolation.’
Social Care Institute for Excellence, May 2015

Some other articles of interest:

Spend (slightly) less on health, and more on the arts
BMJ Editorial, 2002

Keep music live: music and the alleviation of apathy in dementia subjects
Clive Holmes, Andrew Knights, Christine Dean, Sarah Hodkinson and Vivienne Hopkins
School of Medicine, University of Southampton, U.K.
School of Music, University of Southampton, U.K. 2006

An Evidence Review of the Impact of Participatory Arts on Older People
Mental Health Foundation

I’D RATHER HAVE MUSIC!’: the effects of live and recorded music for people with dementia living in care homes, and their carers.
Dr Claire Garabedian: Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Stirling, 2014

  • People with dementia live ‘in the moment’, thank you for supporting these ‘moments’.
    Member of staff, Ashdene Court, Crieff

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