Arts, Culture, Health, Well-being, and Social Connectedness
Presentation hosted by Arts Health Network Canada and CH-NET Works! (a project of the Canadian Health Human Resources Network at the University of Ottawa)
IssueArts, health, and well-being
This presentation muses as to whether the arts could be a part of a “prescription for health”, in addition to a healthy diet, physical activity, proper health care, and good sleeping habits. The presentation provides a brief review of studies of arts engagement and well-being, and delves into the findings from the 2013 study The Arts and Individual Well-being in Canada.
The introduction to the presentation, conducted by Kira Tozer of the Arts Health Network Canada, explains the concept of the arts and health, defining it as “a growing international field that embraces many forms of art to promote health and prevent disease in individuals and communities, enhance health service delivery and enrich research inquiry”. The arts and health include issues such as the use of the arts in health care or in the education of health professionals, arts-based research in health, arts-based health communication, community arts and health promotion and prevention, as well as the connections between recreational arts activity and health. (The Arts Health Network Canada maintains a useful set of publications related to the arts and health in its Mendeley group.)
The core of the presentation, conducted by Kelly Hill, indicates that it would be impossible to cover the full breadth of studies on the arts and health in a brief timeframe. The brief review of studies included in the presentation highlights three broad-ranging reviews of the benefits of the arts (including health benefits), four studies of participatory arts engagement (often among older adults), as well as a summary report that highlights a number of longitudinal studies on arts engagement and health (a report summarized elsewhere in this issue of the Arts Research Monitor).
The report on The Arts and Individual Wellbeing in Canada was based on Statistics Canada’s 2010 General Social Survey, which included 7,502 respondents 15 years of age or older. The report was included in a previous issue of the Arts Research Monitor, and previously-reviewed details of the study are not reiterated here.
The presentation provides details of predictive models of three indicators of health and well-being (very good or excellent health, very strong satisfaction with life, and volunteer activity in the past year). The models sought to examine whether any of six “arts and culture activities have explanatory value in the models above and beyond demographic information”. The statistical models provide substantial evidence that there is indeed a connection between arts and culture activities and health and well-being: of 18 correlations between six arts and culture activities and the three indicators of health and well-being, there was a positive correlation in 16 cases.
The presentation recognizes that the predictive models have limitations, in that some potential factors in health, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, could not be accounted for in the models because these questions were not asked in the 2010 General Social Survey. Another limitation is that the study did not examine whether the frequency of participation had any effects on the indicators of well-being.
The presentation questions whether cultural participation always fosters or strengthens social ties, and recognizes that reverse causality may also be possible (i.e., instead of people having a higher quality of life because they participate in the arts, those who participate in the arts may be able to do so because they already have a higher quality of life).