Staying Engaged

New research from the American National Endowment for the Arts indicates that older adults who create art and attend arts events have better health outcomes than adults who do neither. Staying Engaged is based on results from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), conducted by the University of Michigan with primary support from the National Institute on Aging within the National Institutes of Health.

“Previous studies have found a better health profile for older adults who participate in the arts, compared with those who do not, but much of that research is limited to the study of creating art, or taking part in arts classes or lessons,” said NEA Research & Analysis Director Sunil Iyengar. “This report, by contrast, looks at older adults who either create art or attend arts events, do both, or do neither, and health differences across these groups. The findings, while purely descriptive, will help future researchers to probe the arts-health relationship further.”

The HRS is a nationally representative, 20+ years longitudinal study that has tracked the health profiles of older adults through surveys and other measurement tools. In 2014, HRS investigators added survey questions about older adults’ involvement in arts and cultural activities over the past year. The new questions allow study of the relationship between engaging in the arts—as creators or observers—and selected health outcomes.

Staying Engaged: Health Patterns of Older Americans Who Engage in the Arts presents the first detailed look at arts participation habits, attitudes toward the arts, and related health characteristics of adults aged 55 and older.