Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Public Health



First Advisor

Dr. John F. Watkins

Second Advisor

Dr. Joy M. Jacobs-Lawson


Music is a powerful modality that can bring about changes in individuals of all ages. This research employed both an experimental and quasi-experimental design to identify the effects of music as it influenced psychological well-being, memory, and cognition among older adults. Specifically, it addressed three aims: (a) To determine to what extent learning to play a music instrument later in life influenced psychological well-being and cognitive function of non-institutionalized healthy seniors, (b) To determine the effects of the amount of music involvement on psychological well-being and cognitive function (c) To determine the benefit of music for those with limited/no music experience. For the first aim, it was hypothesized that individuals in the experimental music group would maintain and/or improve psychological well-being, memory, and cognitive function more than those assigned to the wait-list control group. For the second aim, it was hypothesized that participants with extensive music involvement would have higher scores on cognitive ability measures and experience greater psychological well-being than those who had not been actively involved in music throughout their life. For the third aim, it was hypothesized that the participants with limited/no music involvement throughout their life would have a larger change on the psychological well-being measures and cognitive assessments than those who had more music involvement. For the experimental portion (Aim 1), the study employed a 6-week music intervention with non-institutionalized older adults. The quasi-experimental portion (Aims 2 & 3) divided participants according to their amount of time involved in music and then looked at psychological well-being and cognitive function. This dissertation did not show a strong connection between music, memory, and cognition so it did not achieve the desired overall results. However, the findings did suggest that music may modify some areas of cognitive function (verbal learning, memory, and retention) and psychological well-being but did not influence other areas (playing a music instrument for any length of time). Therefore, the findings of this dissertation can be a basis upon which future research relating to music, cognitive functioning, psychological well-being and involvement in music can build.