Reducing major depression in mid to later life with a choir therapy program : a mixed methods study

by Kirstin Robertson-Gillam

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Department: School of Humanities and Communication Arts
Degree: PhD
Year: 2014
Keywords: music therapy; manic-depressive illness; alternative treatment; depression; choirs (music); relaxation; social isolation; middle-aged persons; older people; mental health
Record ID: 1035901
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/545309


Overview: Major Depression in mid to later life can seriously impact on many domains of functioning in a diversity of ways. The trajectory of major depression in mid to later life can lead to varying degrees of social isolation, physical immobilities and cognitive impairment in later life. Furthermore, social isolation can be a serious and debilitating factor which increases dependency and unhappiness in older people, thereby substantially contributing to increasing economic and health burdens as the large cohort of Baby Boomers now approach old age. Aim: To test the efficacy of a choir therapy program (CTP) for reducing major depressive symptoms and decreasing social isolation. Another aim is to test whether the CTP could be an effective adjunct treatment to traditional depression interventions. Method: Thirty-two community dwelling middle to later aged volunteers (48-73 years) living in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, were assessed for major depression, wellbeing and quality of life before and after the eight-week CTP intervention, comparing two groups; the CTP group (N-21) to a wait list control group (N=11). This latter group lived their lives as normal and were promised a place in the choir following the study. The CTP is a structured program which includes mindfulness-based cognitive relaxation, physical and singing exercises, vocal improvisation and learning to sing specially chosen songs. Additionally, nine of the choir group participated in a pilot study in which they underwent Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG) testing before and after the choir intervention as a triangulation measure. Findings: Both quantitative and qualitative data correlated to show a significant decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in wellness and spirituality. Additionally, the QEEG data demonstrated enhancement in the range of right hemispheric functions and a significant ERP novelty response. These results validated the other data as a triangulation measure. Conclusion: The CTP is effective as an adjunct intervention for reducing major depression in mid to later life. Further research should assess each segment of the program as well as compare the CTP with other creative arts programs for reducing symptoms of major depression in mid to later life. Recommendations: Choir therapy is an effective adjunct group intervention for people with mental and chronic medical conditions.