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Perspect Public Health. 2013 Jan;133(1):36-43. doi: 10.1177/1757913912466950.

Active music making: a route to enhanced subjective well-being among older people.

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Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H OAL, UK.



This research explored the relationship between active music making and subjective well-being, in older people's lives. The research focused on how participation in making music might enhance older people's social, emotional and cognitive well-being, through meeting the basic psychological needs identified in earlier research.


The research comprised three case studies, each offering a variety of musical activities to older people. In each case study a sample of older people were asked to complete questionnaires and psychological needs scales related to autonomy, competence, relatedness and self-realisation before and after a substantial period of active engagement with music.


Principal components analysis (PCA) of responses to the CASP-12(1) and the Basic Needs Satisfaction scale(2) revealed three factors: purpose (having a positive outlook on life; autonomy and control; and social affirmation (positive social relationships, competence and a sense of recognised accomplishment). Comparisons of those engaged in music making with those participating in other activities revealed statistically significant differences on all three factors with the music groups giving more positive responses.


The enhanced subjective well-being found among participants in music may have been due to the potential for music to provide a sense of purpose through progression in music and creative expression. Control and autonomy may be supported by the holistic nature of musical engagement, whereby meeting new musical challenges involves physical and cognitive engagement. Finally, social affirmation may be supported through social interaction; giving and receiving peer support; and performance, which confers status, a sense of giving something back to the community, pride and opportunities for positive reinforcement. Further research needs to identify the mechanisms through which music is able to achieve these effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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