Listening to music appears to be more effective in reducing agitation, behavioral symptoms and anxiety for older adults with dementia than does singing or playing along with music, according to a study in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong reviewed 38 trials involving the use of music therapy or 1,418 participants with dementia. They found that participants involved with “receptive music therapy” had significant decreases in agitation and behavioral problems, compared with “usual care” without this therapy.

“Receptive music therapy adopts a passive approach that can be more implementable and less costly than … interactive music therapy,” the authors said.

Receptive music therapy also may offer a way for operators to reduce the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs for residents with dementia and also save costs compared with implementing interactive music therapy, suggest the authors.

Plus, such interventions present the additional benefit of having “no apparent adverse effects.”

Moreover, the study found that there was no significant difference in behavioral problems and psychiatric symptoms between older adults who experienced interactive music therapy versus usual care.