Effect of music on mealtime disruptions.

Jeff Hooper*, Derek Carson, Bill Lindsay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMagazine ArticleResearch

1 Citation (Scopus)


People with learning disabilities can disrupt mealtimes with non-cooperative, aggressive and self-injurious behaviours that challenge other people to tolerate and manage them. These behaviours appear to arise because the proximity of other people, and the heightened activity and noise of a dining room, causes anxiety and agitation. To examine how delivering calming background music via headphones affected anxiety-driven behaviours that disrupted mealtimes. A sample of 30 adults with mild, moderate or severe learning disabilities were videotaped during mealtimes on two consecutive days. On the first day, half the group ate without any calming music while the other half sat opposite them wearing earphones and listening to calming music. On the second day, the non-music and music groups swapped around. Of the participants who tolerated the earphones, only three showed disruptive behaviour; all three had been sitting at the table waiting for their food. With so few examples, meaningful inferential analysis was not possible. However, there were signs that calming music had a positive effect on disruptive mealtime behaviours. It eliminated physical harm, complaining and verbal repetition in one person, and stopped another from shouting/swearing. It also reduced the incidence of shouting/swearing, restlessness and vocalising. Calming music and reduced waiting at tables for food may reduce disruptive behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-24
Number of pages3
JournalNursing times
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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