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January 2023

The effect of music therapy on anxiety levels of terminally ill cancer patients: a pilot study

Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of music on the reduction of anxiety levels in terminally ill cancer patients. Twelve subjects were used, all with a diagnosis of cancer considered untreatable and therefore terminal. Subjects ranged from fifty to eighty years of age and were referred by the social service division of an in-home hospice program affiliated with a large city hospital. The measurement tool used in this study was the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), a fourty-item inventory designed to measure degrees of state and trait anxiety in the general population. As only degrees of state anxiety were to be measured, the State Scale alone was used. The STAI was administered prior to the music intervention, and was again administered after the music intervention. An altered form of Bonny's Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) technique was used as the music therapy intervention. No statistically significant results were obtained. Only in limited cases were post-test scores slightly reduced from pre-test scores. The results may have been due to the size of the sample, the severity of illness or other unknown factors. However, subjects' verbal reports and responses to the intervention were favorable, and suggest that the music intervention did promote increased relaxation and comfort and a reduction in feelings of anxiety and stress. Further study is suggested.

Keyword(s): Terminal-illness, cancer, hospice, anxiety, guided-imagery-and-music, state-trait-anxiety-inventory.

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