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Why live music in hospitals hits right note


Hospitals have been urged to start bringing more live music into the wards to lift the spirits of patients.

The call follows a new study which examined the benefits of performances by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin during 2005 and 2006.

The authors of the study, who include geriatrician Des O' Neill, said it was the first time an orchestra was resident in a hospital here.

"Both patients and staff stated that listening to live music helped them to relax, and feel happier and more positive," the findings revealed.

One patient described it as a "cure for the soul". Some patients had spent up to six months in hospital.

The authors pointed out that hospitals are one of the few places in society where there is an absence of music.

"Live music performed by professional musicians in concert format has been practised for many years in hospitals outside of Ireland, but research is limited," say the authors.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra visited Tallaght Hospital, performing in small groups in the age-related health care unit, neurology ward, psychiatry wards and the main atrium.

The orchestra gave a total of 40 recitals during the residency, each one about 30 minutes long. Patients were later asked how they felt before hearing the music and this drew responses such as 'sad', 'dejected', 'depressed', 'down', 'ok' or 'good'.

"The majority reported positive emotional states after the music: 82pc of respondents stated that listening to the music helped them to relax.

59pc said that hearing the music made them feel happier, 47pc felt more positive, 29pc felt more energised and 19pc felt part of a group.

A small minority (3pc) felt less pain as a result of listening to the live music. Only one respondent felt lonely, according to the study.

Some patients said that the music distracted them from their state of health and 11pc stated that it helped them cope with their hospital stay.

"Overall, there were few negative perceptions of the live music recitals. The main criticism was that the performances were too short," the authors said.

Funding for the music in hospitals project and the evaluation was provided by The Meath Foundation, The Adelaide Society, The National Children's Hospital Appeal and South Dublin County Council.