Classical Music Helps Improve Quality of Life in Heart Failure Patients: Study

Results from a new randomized study suggest that exposure to classical music is associated with improved quality of life in patients with heart failure (HF) in a home-care setting.

“Studies have shown that music may have beneficial effects on cardiovascular, respiratory and neuroendocrine systems,” the authors wrote. “Music can powerfully evoke and modulate emotions and moods along with changes in heart activity, blood pressure, and breathing. Classical music shows the clearest beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health.”

The multicenter, randomized controlled trial, published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure, included 159 patients with HF randomized 1:1 into two study groups. The first group was the intervention group (exposed to music) and a control, and the patients were evaluated at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and at six months. The authors assigned the intervention group to listen to music from a selected playlist for 30 minutes per day on an MP3 player plus standard care, and assigned the control group to standard care alone. Using specified scales, the researchers evaluated HF-specific quality of life, generic quality of life, self-care, somatic perception of symptoms, sleep quality, anxiety, and depression.

The authors reported that on average, patients in the music intervention group saw greater improvements in their heart failure-specific quality of life (P<0.001), generic quality of life (P=0.05), sleep quality (P=0.007), anxiety/depression levels (P<0.001 for both), and also cognitive performance (P=0.003).

“Listening to recorded classical music is a feasible, noninvasive, safe, and inexpensive intervention, able to improve quality of life in patients with HF in the home-care setting,” the authors wrote in their study. “This emphasizes the importance of complementary nonpharmacologic treatments in patients with HF.”

Promising Direction

Jerome L. Fleg, MD, wrote an accompanying editorial for the study, in which he highlighted both the promise and limitations of the trial. One of the key limitations of the current study, he wrote, was its entanglement of rest periods and music listening, which made it hard to tease out specifically what the score of the music intervention may have been.

“Clearly, it is important to design rigorous studies with control groups that allow separation of the effects of music intervention from other elements of the intervention such as rest periods,” Dr. Fleg wrote. “In addition, measurements of physiologic and neurohormonal effects of music intervention will provide a much needed window into its postulated mechanisms of benefit. For more widespread application and generalizability, music intervention using culturally-targeted musical genres should be tested in diverse HF populations.”

In a second accompanying editorial, Renee Fleming, an internationally known soprano and opera singer, and Sheri L. Robb, PhD, noted that while the data are still out definitively on the efficacy of music interventions, they are pointing in a promising direction.

“This is an exciting time; with the burgeoning field of integrative medicine, interest in the intersection of music and science is growing,” they wrote. “This sector is fertile ground,  with increased demand for further research from clinicians, practitioners, scientists, and the general public. Humans are – at heart – emotional, social, and creative beings who need each other, and music has the power to bridge that connection.”