Cultural activities linked to better health and low stress levels

Cultural activities linked to better health and low stress levels

By Rebecca Coxon

According to a new report, cultural activities such as visiting museums, the theatre and art galleries could promote good health.

The report, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and lead by Norwegian researchers, showed that ‘participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life and low anxiety and depression scores in both genders.’

Men prefer to be passive, whereas women take a more active role

However, especially in men, ‘attending receptive, rather than creative, cultural activities was more strongly associated with all health-related outcomes’

This means that for the male individuals who took part the effect was most pronounced in those who preferred to observe rather than take part more directly.  Therefore, it is men who like to visit art exhibitions rather than paint, or watch a musical concert rather than play an instrument, who proved most healthy and satisfied in the research.

With women, similar results were noted, as a group women appeared to benefit more from taking part in creative activities while men seemed happier observing culture.

The study took place in Nord-Trøndelag County, Norway and involved over 50,000 adults.  They were asked about how healthy, happy and satisfied they felt with life as well as what cultural and creative activities they took part in, including: museums, art exhibitions, concerts, plays, films, church or sporting fixtures, how often they participated in club meetings, sang or played musical instruments, danced, worked out or played a sport, or took part in outdoor activities more generally.

Both types of cultural activity – receptive and creative - were linked with good health.  A good sense of wellbeing along with low stress and depression levels, even when other factors such as social background and wealth, were taken into account and resulted positively.

The authors of the report said: "The results indicate that the use of cultural activities in health promotion and healthcare may be justified."  Consequently the results could lead to an improved system of using cultural activities as methods of treatment for mental health problems, or at least as a recommended way for people to improve their own sense of wellbeing by themselves.

Just a coincidence?

It should be recognised that the study cannot confirm that culture indefinitely improves health.  It could be the case, rather, that healthier people are just more likely to take part in cultural activities.

However, The Telegraph maintains that researchers uphold the accuracy of the results despite this seemingly obvious correlation.

They quote a previous study that suggested, ‘leisure activities such as listening to music are relaxing – making it easier to cope with stress – while taking part in activities such as singing classes is good for socialising and so may improve mental health.’

‘The more the participants engaged in such activities, the better they reported their physical health and mental wellbeing to be’ reports the newspaper.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, spokesperson for the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: "It's interesting research, probably working through the release of hormones, like endorphins, increasing the feeling of wellbeing and reducing anxiety and depression."

Relevant articles

We hope you will find the following links useful: 

10 ways to relax for free

Stress busting relaxation tips

The internal benefits of exercise

What is anxiety?

Anxiety symptoms

What is depression?

Depression symptoms 

No votes yet