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Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

February 27, 201927 February 2019

Arts and health

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (U.K.)

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Noting that it is potentially “the most comprehensive overview of the field to date”, this report provides evidence demonstrating the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing throughout all stages of life. The authors conclude that the evidence points to three key messages:

  • “The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.
  • The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health.
  • The arts can help save money in the health service and social care.”

The report contains findings from a two-year inquiry consisting of an extensive literature review and stakeholder consultations. The consultations included 16 roundtable discussions with a total of 300 participants as well as other meetings with a range of stakeholders: patients, health and social care professionals, artists, arts administrators, academics, policy-makers, and parliamentarians. The academic and “grey” literature review, conducted by Dr. Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt of King’s College London, covered the effects of the arts and culture on physical, mental, and social wellbeing at all life stages.

The report contains numerous case studies, one of which profiles the outcomes of stroke patients’ music-making sessions with professional musicians and clinicians. An evaluation of this collaboration between the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Health Service found that “eighty-six percent of patients felt the sessions relieved disability symptoms, citing improved sleep; reduced anxiety, dizzy spells and epileptic episodes; improved concentration and memory; and increased confidence, morale and sense of self. Ninety-one percent of patients experienced social benefits, including enhanced communication and relationships.”

Other case studies include the benefits of the arts for dementia patients, palliative patients (and their caregivers), new mothers with postpartum depression, people with mental illnesses, and many others.

The report also provides examples of the arts and humanities being used in the training and professional development of health and social care staff, although the authors argue that this type of training should be offered more consistently.

The report includes ten recommendations, many of which involve greater collaboration between the National Health Service, government bodies, research councils, public health organizations, and medical schools. The report concludes that, “too often, arts programmes for health are temporary, and provision is uneven across the country. For this to improve, culture change is needed. The key to progress will be leadership and collaboration across the systems of health, social care and the arts.”

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