Music and dance groups show promising results in social health

A new review published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry has shed light on how to reduce loneliness and improve social belonging for people with dementia.

While it’s said that previous research has often neglected a review of social wellbeing in people living with dementia, study co-author and co-director of CHeBA, Professor Henry Brodaty says that “addressing their social health needs” is “fundamentally important”.

“Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated the concept of health to now include social health alongside physical and mental health,” says Professor Brodaty, adding that “epidemiological studies reveal that people with dementia are at higher risk of poor social health”.

Looking at peer-reviewed journals, researchers at UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeB) examined recent interventions with social health outcome measures, including interventions across multiple settings from communities to assisted living facilities.

They found that music and/or dance groups significantly improved social participation for people with dementia and reduced loneliness.

“Although more quantitative research is required to evaluate the efficacy of community social groups, exercise groups and cognitive interventions, we certainly discovered that both music groups and dance groups showed promising results for improvements in social health of participants,” says lead author, Dr Suraj Samtani.

The review also addressed studies involving socially assistive robots and other technology, which produced mixed results but warrants further exploration.

“The evidence for the efficacy of socially assistive robots in improving social health is mixed,” says Dr Samtani.

“We recommend the co-design of social robots with people living with dementia to best meet their social health needs.

“Future interventions involving people living with dementia should include not only cognitive and physical health outcome measures but also measures of social health – such as social participation and loneliness.”