The Arts Play A 'Crucial' Role In Reducing Poor Health, New Report Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
The Arts Play A 'Crucial' Role In Our Health, According To New Report

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Music to our ears! A new report highlights all the positive ways the arts can affect our health. Whether it's playing an instrument, singing alone in your car, or dancing with friends, a quick indulgence in the arts will have long-term effects on your mental and physical well-being.

Numerous studies have been published over the past few years on the health benefits of various artistic activities: singing for mental health, dancing for stress, music for anxiety, and more. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially labeled the arts as "crucial" to reducing poor health. 

The largest report to date on this topic.

This report, published by WHO's Health Evidence Network division, compiled over 3,000 studies published in the past 20 years from all around the globe, all focused on some sort of artistic activity and its effect on health. 

The researchers categorized the broader term of "the arts" into five specific areas: performing arts (singing, dancing, acting), visual arts (painting, knitting, crafts), literature (poetry, writing, literary festivals), culture (visiting galleries, museums, art symposiums), and online arts (digital arts, design, animation). From there, the studies were divided into three groups: prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the life span. Results identified the arts as playing a major role across all three categories.  

Among the results, some included:

  • PTSD patients using dance to relax muscles and reduce stress hormones
  • Cancer patients creating art or listening to music helping to reduce side effects of treatment
  • Children in emergency situations using arts and crafts as a way to reduce stress
  • Young children reading before bed for better sleep and increased concentration in school
  • Dementia patients singing to support cognitive function and improve attention

Along with the positive benefits of art intervention, the report found that many of these programs are more cost-effective when compared with standard medical treatments.

The results found in this report indicate a greater need for the arts across all platforms, highlighting a necessity for promotion at the individual, local, and national levels.

The conclusion of the report offered a multitude of next steps and specific recommendations for policymakers and government officials to implement in communities. These considerations will contribute to things like funding, programs, and promoting awareness to continue the prevalence of arts in society, specifically in education for developing children.

"The examples cited in this groundbreaking WHO report show ways in which the arts can tackle 'wicked' or complex health challenges such as diabetes, obesity, and mental ill health," said WHO's regional director for Europe, Piroska Östlin, Ph.D. "They consider health and well-being in a broader societal and community context, and offer solutions that common medical practice has so far been unable to address effectively."

In this day and age, everyone is looking for ways to treat illness, prevent disease, and feel healthier overall. The arts provide us with a simple and accessible option to promote wellness and feel better about ourselves. 

So, listen to some music, have a quick dance session, or go take a stroll through a museum. The arts are everywhere, and it's time to get your groove on.

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