Music Listening Was an Emotional Resource and Social Surrogate for Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study

Jenny Groarke, Niamh MacCormac, Phoebe McKenna-Plumley, Lisa Graham-Wisener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Loneliness and isolation worsen health and wellbeing have been exacerbated by COVID-19, and represent a significant concern for supporting older adults. Music listening has effects that could be particularly supportive during periods of isolation. The aim of this study is to examine older adults' music listening behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic and explore music's social and emotional impact in this context. Semi-structured interviews enhanced with music-elicitation were carried out remotely between May and June 2021. Participants were self-selected, community-dwelling older adults residing in Northern Ireland (N = 14; 6 males; 60-83 years). Most were living with their spouse or family, all were of White ethnicity and had varying levels of education. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Two main themes were identified: (1) Music as an emotional resource and (2) Music as a social surrogate. Older adults had a preference for using music to induce positive feelings, and used music for negative affect regulation and consolation. Music acted as a social surrogate providing company, and reminders of social relationships and experiences. Music listening was a valued behaviour during COVID-19. Findings have implications for how music listening might be used as an accessible, low-resource tool for supporting isolated older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Change
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy.


  • music listening
  • stress
  • coping
  • Well being
  • loneliness
  • mental health
  • social isolation
  • COVID-19
  • wellbeing


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