There are more than 100 Cochrane reviews of interventions that might be used to help people with dementia. One of these, on dance movement therapy, was updated in August 2023 and we asked lead author, Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk in the UK, to tell us more in this podcast.
Mike: Hello, I'm Mike Clarke, podcast editor for the Cochrane Library. There are more than 100 Cochrane reviews of interventions that might be used to help people with dementia. One of these, on dance movement therapy, was updated in August 2023 and we asked lead author, Vicky Karkou from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk in the UK, to tell us more in this podcast.
Vicky: Dementia affects more than 55 million people worldwide and this is set to triple by 2050, due to the aging population. It's often severe enough to interfere with independent living and, over the course of the illness, people with dementia experience changes in emotions, behaviour and social relationships. Guidelines highlight the value of diverse treatment options for the different stages and symptoms of dementia, including non‐pharmacological treatments. Interventions also need to acknowledge the complexity of the condition and address the person as a whole, including their physical, emotional, social and cognitive processes. This suggests a role for the arts, and dance movement therapy is an embodied psychological intervention that can address complexity and thus may be useful for people with dementia, but its effectiveness remains unclear.
We wanted to assess the impact of dance movement therapy on different aspects of a person's life in comparison to no treatment, standard care or any other treatment. The main outcomes we were interested in were problems with behaviour and mental well‐being, cognition (thinking and remembering), depression and quality of life. We also wanted to compare different forms of dance movement therapy. When we published the first version of our review in 2017, there were no available studies but we did find one ongoing trial. That trial has now been completed and we're able to include it in this review update.
We also searched the literature carefully for any other studies which compared a group of people with dementia who had dance movement therapy with another group as the control group, and had used randomisation to assign a person to their group, in order for the comparison to be fair. This did not reveal any other studies, leaving us with the single study, which took place in Hong Kong and involved 204 people. Some of the participants had mild dementia and some had even milder problems with thinking and memory. The researchers compared dance movement therapy with exercise and with a waiting list, at the end of the therapy and again three and nine months later.
We did not find any difference between dance movement therapy and exercise or waiting list for overall behaviour and mental well‐being or for cognition. For depression, we found that there may be a small benefit for dance movement therapy at the end of therapy and three and nine months later. However, this effect might not be large enough to be really noticeable to the people with dementia. There was no information on quality of life.
In summary, the amount of evidence on the effects of dance movement therapy for people with dementia is small. Although the single study was well‐conducted, some of the participants had milder problems than dementia and we don't know how well the overall results apply only to people with dementia. This means that we are not certain if dance movement therapy is effective in supporting people with mild dementia and we cannot say anything about its effects in moderate or severe dementia. More studies are needed to be able to say for certain if dance movement therapy is beneficial for people with dementia of any severity.
Mike: If you'd like to read this updated version of the review and watch for future updates if more studies become available, it's available online at Cochrane Library dot com with a simple search for 'dance and dementia'.