Interest in arts can boost mental health: study
According to new research, engaging in artistic activities for just two hours a week can help to improve mental health. (shutterstock.com / Comaniciu Dan)
In a recent study, a team of researchers from The University of Western Australia have found that participating in the arts for just two hours a week can improve mental health and wellbeing.
As little is known about a link between mental health in the general population and the arts for enjoyment, rather than as a therapy, the team of researchers collected data from 702 Western Australian adults on their interest in the arts for entertainment, enjoyment, or a hobby.
The participants were asked to complete a 15-minute telephone survey about their engagement in the arts, their mental wellbeing, and also their demographics such as sex, age, education level, and income.
In the study, the arts included a range of creative activities and interests such as painting, reading, photography, music, theatre, sculpture, fashion, and craft. Engagement in these activities could involve an active role, such as making art, or a receptive role, such as attending a concert.
In the survey participants were asked if they had engaged in the arts within the last 12 months, and if yes, to describe their participation. They were also asked how much time they had spent engaging in the arts.
Participants were also questioned on their mental health, and responded to statements and questions such as 'I've been feeling...optimistic, useful, relaxed, good about myself, and I've been...dealing with problems well, thinking clearly, and interested in new things.'
After analyzing the results, the researchers found that those who within the last 12 months had engaged in the arts for 100 hours or more, the equivalent of two or more hours/week, reported significantly better mental well-being than those with lower levels of engagement.
The results have led the researchers to stress the importance of good mental health and the effects of the arts on this area of wellbeing.
"People need a range of easy enjoyable options they can use to stay well," commented Dr Christina Davies, one of the study's co-authors. "Depending on a person's interests, the arts can provide a range of health enhancing opportunities, activities and events. Arts engagement increases happiness, confidence, self-esteem and reduces stress and social isolation."
"People need to give themselves permission to be creative and to make time for the arts activities and events that they enjoy."
The study was published in the journal BMC Public Health.