The role of Arts in Health & Wellbeing
Results from over 3000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan. Here is a focus on the role arts can play in prevention and promotion.
1. Enhancing Social Bonding
There is a wide literature on the potential role of the arts - in particular, music - in enhancing social bonding. The arts can also be used to support regeneration programs: inner-city housing projects incorporating the arts have been found to improve the built environment and enhance social cohesion.
2. Improving Child Development
Mother–infant singing has been found to enhance maternal nurturing behaviours, reduce stress hormones in mothers and their infants, and increase the mother–infant bond.
Music plays an important part in language development. Benefits are also found from other arts activities such as theatre programs for preschoolers to improve verbal communication and picture storybook. Other activities such as dance, can also enhance developmental maturity.
3. Encouraging healthy behaviours
Observational studies show promising evidence that people who engage with the arts are more likely to lead healthier lives, including eating healthily and staying physically active.
For instance, dance can be more effective than exercise in reducing body fat, possibly through the role of music in improving mood and helping to maintain attention.
4. Bringing positive emotions
There is a large body of research showing how arts engagement can enhance positive emotions we have in our daily lives, our life satisfaction or our sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
There is also a growing literature on the preventive benefits of arts engagement in relation to mental health. Activities such as making and listening to music, dancing, art and visiting cultural sites are all associated with stress management and prevention.
5. Supporting caregiving
Exhibitions, books, performances and installations can support science communication and encourage new audiences to engage with research on health.
Besides, art appreciation classes have been found to improve verbal and nonverbal communication skills in clinical teams.
The arts can also support mental health and wellbeing in health-care staff. For instance, the development of empathy through music and movement has been linked with lower stress and burn-out and higher resilience.