WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF ACTIVE MUSIC PARTICIPATION ON WELL-BEING AMONG ADULTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES?
All known cultures experience music and the healing properties have been acknowledged for
over 30,000 years. Research has indicated that music participation has the potential to
support a range of well-being benefits, for example among older adults, people with dementia
and people experiencing mental ill-health. Despite encouraging anecdotal reports, however,
adults with learning disabilities have typically been under-represented in well-being research
and there is very little literature examining music participation within this community. Those
studies that do exist have tended to focus on separate components of well-being, which has
presented an incomplete picture.
This multiple methods research investigated how music participation can support the wellbeing
of adults with learning disabilities, with a particular focus on adults with Down’s
syndrome. The research was conducted via three studies: (1) an ethnographic case study of
four students attending regular music sessions via the Music Man Project UK, (2) a survey
study exploring the prevalence of music usage within the UK Mencap network, and (3) a
within-subjects intervention study to investigate the impact of a 10 week programme of
music-making, delivered and supported by the Music Man Project UK, on well-being among
adults with Down’s syndrome.
The results indicate that active music participation can indeed enhance positive well-being
and reduce negative well-being for adults with Down’s syndrome. Study 1 highlighted the
wide ranging well-being benefits experienced by participants and their families, for whom
music-making was a regular ongoing activity. Four overarching themes emerged: positive
emotions; educational development; meaning; and, accomplishment. Study 2 provided an
insight into how Mencap (the largest UK charity supporting people with learning disabilities)
used music as part of its programme and identified barriers that potentially inhibited musicmaking.
Study 3 demonstrated improved well-being scores following a 10 week intervention
programme of music-making with participants who had not participated in regular music
sessions previously. Implications from the research could inform accessible music
intervention strategies to support and enhance well-being in this often marginalised group in
society. In so doing, this research contributes to providing equal opportunities to musicmaking
and its associated well-being benefits to people with learning disabilities, comparable
to their non-learning disabled counterparts.
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