The research on the health benefits of intensive engagement with creative and cultural activities through art therapy and workshops led by artists is well recognised in the literature on cultural impact. In general, this engagement involves small numbers and, in the current climate, is unlikely to receive sufficient investment to make a difference at a population level. Less recognised is an emerging field of epidemiological research on the health impact of ‘general cultural attendance’.
This provides evidence that simply going to a museum, art gallery, film or concert on a regular basis increases longevity, and that culture is a separate variable. This article summarises this evidence and looks at the strategic implications for cultural organisations from the perspective of a practitioner. If cultural attendance can help address health inequalities, and if the best way to overcome the psychological and social barriers to cultural attendance is personal contact with a trusted guide, the article outlines a system where voluntary and statutory organisations can refer people to cultural organisations who might benefit from them. The former would need to be able to guarantee a high quality and friendly welcome that recognises the needs of first-time users from excluded groups. Developed among a network of cultural organisations with voluntary and public sector partners, such a system could reach sufficient numbers to have a health impact on a population level.
The full report can be found within the related documents section on this page.