Benefits of the arts

American think tank Createquity has collated and reviewed research into the health benefits of the arts. The organisation has come up with a list of areas where they identify the evidence for the impact of the arts on wellbeing is strong.

The review of research into arts and wellbeing focuses on the benefits of the arts on a range of different wellbeing impact areas: physical and mental health, education and personal development, economic vitality, and social cohesion. The researchers are highly confident that:

  • Participatory arts activities help to maintain the health and quality of life of older adults. There is evidence that singing improves mental health and subjective wellbeing; taking dance classes bolsters cognition and motor skills; dancing and playing a musical instrument reduce the risk of dementia; and visual arts generate increases in self-esteem, psychological health, and social engagement.
  • Arts therapies contribute to positive clinical outcomes, such as reduction in anxiety, stress, and pain for patients. Music interventions tend to dominate studies in this area, mostly characterized by passive forms of participation (e.g., listening to music).
  • Arts participation in early childhood promotes social and emotional development. For example, teachers report fewer instances of shy, aggressive, and anxious behaviour among pre-schoolers taking dance classes, and toddlers receiving music instruction demonstrate increased social cooperation with other children.
  • Student participation in structured arts activities enhances cognitive abilities and social skills that support learning, such as memory, problem-solving, and communication. (While arts participation may improve academic attainment as well, any effects are fairly small. Traditional scholastic measures such as standardized tests and grades have produced mixed evidence.)