Visit to museums, art galleries, theaters or concerts is linked to a longer life, scientists have found. And the more people engage with the arts, the lower their risk of death, according to the study published in the journal The BMJ.
“Overall, our results emphasize the importance of continuing to explore new social factors as core determinants of health,” said study researchers from University College, London.
But whether arts engagement can enhance survival remains unclear, so researchers set out to explore the association between different frequencies of arts engagement and mortality. Their findings are based on data from more than 6,000 adults in England aged 50 years and over who have been taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
Frequency of arts activities, including, visiting the theatre, concerts, opera, museums, art galleries, and exhibitions, was measured at the start of the study in 2004-2005. Participants were followed up for an average of 12 years, during.
After taking account of a range of economic, health and social factors, the researchers found that people who engaged in arts activities once or twice a year had a 14 per cent lower chance of dying at any time during the follow-up period compared to those who never engaged (3.5 deaths per 1,000 person years vs 6 deaths per 1,000 person years).
People who engaged in arts activities more often (every month or two or more) had a 31 per cent lower risk of dying (2.4 deaths per 1000 person-years).
But results were maintained independent of these and other elements like mobility issues, deprivation, wealth, and retirement.
The researches point out that the very people who have the most to gain from engaging in the arts, like the weakest and those with depression or loneliness, are likely to do so.
“These results are significant given the current focus on social prescribing schemes – a key plinth of UK government health policy – that refer people to community arts activities to enhance their health and wellbeing,” said researchers. “Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities, they added.