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Go See Art, Make Music, Feel Better

by Jerome Weeks 26 May 2011 9:52 AM

A new study says there’s a strong link between cultural activities – either making art or enjoying it – and a person’s well-being. Interesting sidelight: This link has nothing to do with education or wealth, yet it’s different according to sex.


According to a Norwegian study published in the British Medical Association’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, people who attend concerts or visit museums or who paint, play instruments, sculpt, act, whatever — are more satisfied with their lives. Surprisingly, the results did not correlate to their levels of education or wealth.

Also interesting: The link between life satisfaction and cultural activity is not the same for both sexes. For men, it’s more relaxation — being an audience member — that triggers the well-being (an uptick in mood and health). For women, it’s playing music or creating art that lessens anxiety or depression.

Two issues are left unresolved in the Discovery News report: First, is this true for both leisure time activities and the professional work of artists? Second, which came first: Are culturally active people happier/healthier to begin with and seek such outlets? Or do these outlets actually change people’s outlooks?

Image of Droopy from silalice’s blog

  • Laura

    Here’s the citation for the article cited in this post.

    Patterns of receptive and creative cultural activities and their association with perceived health, anxiety, depression and satisfaction with life among adults: the HUNT study, Norway

    J Epidemiol Community Health 2011;jech.2010.113571Published Online First: 23 May 2011 doi:10.1136/jech.2010.113571

  • Semi-related: this NYT article on Russian conceptual art duo Melamid and Komar:

    “I was always told that art was good for me, but until recently I didn’t know what it was good for. What is good? What is good in the U.S.A. is health and health products.”

    So the artists opened Art Healing Ministry. Rather wry stuff.