We aim to review existing literature on the effects of background music in waiting rooms on patients. Furthermore, we examine existing neurobiological research for potential mechanisms by which music may affect patients.
Music has been studied in healthcare in various forms, from formal interventions such as music therapy to passive listening as therapy. However, music is also present in the healthcare environment in the form of background music in waiting rooms. There has been interest in whether background music in such a setting may have beneficial effects on patient anxiety in order to potentially inform healthcare workers whether and what type of music may be suitable for waiting rooms.
We reviewed existing literature on music in healthcare waiting rooms and the neurobiological mechanisms by which music affects anxiety.
We located several small studies performed in a range of settings, including physician office waiting rooms and preoperative waiting areas. The studies generally reported that most patients viewed music in these areas positively; some, but not all, studies showed positive effects on patient anxiety. A variety of theories by which music may impact patient anxiety was noted.
We conclude that there exists some evidence to support an anxiety-reducing effect of background music on patients, though studies vary widely in methodology and music selection. A small amount of neurobiological research into the pertinent mechanisms has been conducted, but further research will be required to elucidate the exact mechanisms by which this intervention may reduce anxiety.