Music Therapy for Stress Reduction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Martina de Witte*, Ana da Silva Pinho, Geert-Jan Stams, Xavier Moonen, Arjan E R Bos, Susan van Hooren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Music therapy is increasingly being used as an intervention for stress reduction in both medical and mental healthcare settings. Music therapy is characterized by personally tailored music interventions initiated by a trained and qualified music therapist, which distinguishes music therapy from other music interventions, such as "music medicine", which concerns mainly music listening interventions offered by healthcare professionals. To summarize the growing body of empirical research on music therapy, a multilevel meta-analysis, containing 47 studies, 76 effect sizes and 2.747 participants, was performed to assess the strength of the effects of music therapy on both physiological and psychological stress-related outcomes, and to test potential moderators of the intervention effects. Results showed that music therapy showed an overall medium-to-large effect on stress-related outcomes (d = .723, [.51-.94]). Larger effects were found for clinical controlled trials (CCT) compared to randomized controlled trials (RCT), waiting list controls instead of care as usual (CAU) or other stress-reducing interventions, and for studies conducted in Non-Western countries compared to Western countries. Implications for both music therapy and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2020


  • Music therapy
  • arousal
  • stress
  • state anxiety
  • music intervention
  • multilevel meta-analysis


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