Aim. To examine the effects of music intervention on the physiological stress response and the anxiety level among mechanically ventilated patients in intensive care unit.
Background. Despite the fact that previous studies have found music interventions to be effective in stress and anxiety reduction, effects of music on the Chinese population are inconclusive and warranted systematic study to evaluate its effect fully for a different Asian culture.
Design. A randomised placebo-controlled trial.
Methods. A total of 137 patients receiving mechanical ventilation were randomly assigned to either music listening group, headphone group or control group. Outcome measures included the Chinese version of Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Scale and physiological parameters (heart rate, respiratory rate, saturation of oxygen and blood pressure).
Results. Comparison of mean differences (pretest score–posttest score) showed significant differences in heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure as well as the Chinese version of Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Scale, but not in SaO2 among the three groups (ranging from p < 0·001 to p = 0·007), of which greater mean differences were found in music listening group. A significant reduction in physiological stress response (heart rate and respiratory rate) over time was found in music listening group (p < 0·001 for both variables) and a significant increase in heart rate and respiratory rate over time in control group (p < 0·001 and p = 0·032), with no significant change over time in headphone group. Within group pretest–posttest comparison of the Chinese version of Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Scale demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety for the music listening group (p < 0·001) and headphone group (p < 0·001) but not the control group.
Conclusions. Our findings confirm that short-term therapeutic effects of music listening results in substantial reduction in physiological stress responses arising from anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients.
Relevance to clinical practice. Music as a non-pharmacological nursing intervention can be used as complementary adjunct in the care of patients with low-energy states who tire easily, such as those requiring mechanical ventilator support.