Non-pharmacologic interventions can effectively treat some cases of dementia-related aggression and agitation, according to a new study from Canada.

In a systematic review, researchers analyzed 163 randomized controlled trials involving more than 23,000 adults with dementia. Outdoor activities were found to be more clinically effective than anti-psychotic medication for treating physical aggression. And for participants with physical agitation, massage and touch therapy reduced symptoms more effectively than usual care or caregiver support.

The results suggest that a multidisciplinary approach can be effective in treating symptoms in nursing facilities and community settings, the investigators wrote.

“Treatment should be tailored to the patient and their specific experience,” said geriatrician Sharon Straus, M.D., from St. Michael’s Hospital. “This study, however, does shed light on the opportunity to consider prioritizing different types of interventions for aggression and agitation when appropriate.”

Up to three quarters of people living with dementia have neuropsychiatric symptoms including aggression, agitation and anxiety, the authors reported.