Walls Need Your Love: Pt I Mental Health

The Mental Health Benefits of Art

Are you struggling with 21st century burnout? Welcome to the club! Let’s face it, 24-hour connectivity takes its toll on everyone. Though many of us choose to display art in our homes for aesthetic purposes, MLG has always believed art is powerful medicine. And recent research and studies support our claim! Whether viewing it, analyzing or creating it, art stimulates the brain in ways that directly impact our stress levels, memory and empathy.

The Research

Conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, collected information from 130,000 Norwegians regarding how often they participated in cultural activities. Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher with the university, asserts that the study discovered a definite correlation between participating in cultural activities—creating or viewing art, or attending concerts—and having increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression in both men and women.

In an article with Live Science Cuypers discussed the intention of the study, in particular how activities other than physical activity could promote good health:

 

There has been a focus on physical activity as an instrument to promote good health in the last decades, but who is sure that all people are equally capable of doing five days a week of intensive training? I doubt it! Studies suggest that 50 percent of leisure time is spent in other activities than physical activity, so we aimed at investigating whether participation in cultural activities would also be associated with good health/good satisfaction with life/low anxiety and depression.

A study conducted by the Happy Museum Project looked into how one’s involvement in museums and the arts impacted their health and wellbeing. Using data collected on roughly 100,000 people between 2005-2011, the study concluded that:

  • Visiting museums has a positive impact on happiness and self-reported health after controlling for a large range of other determinants;
  • Participation in the arts and being an audience to the arts each have positive effects on happiness; being an audience to the arts has a bigger impact on happiness.

In addition to conducting their own research, Guy Noble from University College London Hospital and Helen Chatterjee collated, reviewed and analyzed hundreds of projects, reports, publications and other evidence for their 2013 book Museums, Health and Well-Being. Calling the results both startling and impressive, Noble and Chatterjee contend they found substantial anecdotal and scholarly evidence affirming the mental health benefits of museums and art, including:

  • Positive social experiences, leading to reduced social isolation
  • Calming experiences, leading to decreased anxiety
  • Increased positive emotions, such as optimism, hope and enjoyment
  • Increased self-esteem and a sense of identity and community
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