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The prevalence and complexity of mental disorders in children and adolescents requires multimodal treatment concepts and adjuvant therapeutic approaches. There is an emerging view that music-related activities (MRA) may play an important role in youth mental and physical health. This presentation outlines the clinical potential of MRA for youth with mental disorders and explores scientific evidence from recent biopsychological research at the University Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Salzburg, Austria. Two preliminary experiments with CT pre-post-testing were designed to investigate the efficacy of group singing vs. music listening on biological (cortisol, IgA) and psychological (mood, quality of life and well-being) outcomes in a clinical setting among children and adolescents (12–18 years) with mental disorders (ICD-10: F3, F4, F5, F6, F8). Experiment 1 (singing n = 12; listening n = 8) evaluated the immediate effects of music-related activities after a single 45-minute session, whereas Experiment 2 (singing n = 8; listening n = 9) investigated the effects of an intensive musical program delivered through five consecutive 45-minute daily sessions in one week. It was found that both singing and listening had a larger effect in Experiment 2 than in Experiment 1. Furthermore, the intensive program in singing was associated with a significantly larger mean drop in cortisol than listening (p=.014), while listening led to a significantly higher mean positive change in mood (p=.026) than singing. Moreover, singing was associated with an improvement in quality of life, and listening with an improvement in wellbeing. There was no significant interaction for S-IgA in either experiment. These preliminary effects of MRA can be applied to improve treatment approaches of mental illnesses in young patients. However, despite our current knowledge, there is a need for further investigations in clinical and educational settings to better understand the biopsychological mechanisms underlying MRA and to inform the evidence-based practice.
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