Winston Churchill once said “happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.” In many ways, Churchill was ahead of his time, and certainly, his pontifications on the value of art foreshadowed today’s growing movement focused on arts in health. According to the National Association of Arts in Health, the fi eld is “dedicated to using the power of the arts to enhance health and wellbeing in diverse institutional and community contexts.” Arts in health encompasses a broad range of activities and formats, from the simple act of creating art to the integration of professional performing artists into healthcare settings to the complex and culture-shifting clinical practice of physicians writing prescriptions for arts participation, known as “social prescribing.”
As the movement grows, so does the research that underscores the impact of the intersection of arts in health. Here are some of the most compelling fi ndings:
• A 2019 epidemiological study demonstrated that engagement in arts and cultural activities enhances immune response, longevity, and wellbeing, among other outcomes (Rogers & Fancourt, 2019).
• Arts and cultural activities can improve community capacity and social cohesion, and they often influence areas of policy and practice such as health, community development, economic development, and education (Muirhead & De Leeuw, 2012).
• Evidence gathered through large-scale cohort studies in the United Kingdom suggests that arts and cultural participation can mitigate the incidence of depression and chronic pain among older adults, as well as maladjustment among children, and that adults who frequently engage in the arts have lower rates of morbidity and mortality (Fancourt & Steptoe, 2019). These findings have led to significant health and policy outcomes in the UK, including governmental investment in social prescribing.
• The neuropathways created through aesthetic conditioning can have significant implications— predicting behavior, health, and wellbeing across the lifespan and subsequent generations (Belfi, et al., 2019).
Exercise your Creativity at the Center for Health & Wellbeing
Like exercise and good nutrition, being creative is simply good for us. This winter, the Center for Health & Wellbeing is proud to offer a slate of special programs focused on supporting your healthiest inner artist. Register for one of the Center’s Arts in Health community education programs HERE.