Statistics suggest UK theatres save the NHS £102m per year

UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) have released statistics that suggest that theatres generate an annual cost saving to the NHS of over £102 million by helping benefit the physical and mental health of those in their surrounding communities.

The new stat reinforces the importance of theatre and the arts in improving physical and mental wellbeing. It is supported by an ongoing audience survey by The Old Vic, in which 93% of respondents so far have agreed or strongly agreed that theatre benefits their mental health and wellbeing.

The figure was calculated using a 2015 report by DCMS and Simetrica, which quantifies the health benefits enjoyed by people attending a cultural or sporting activity. The report found that the NHS saves a yearly total of £11.91 for every person partaking in such an activity, from a reduction in GP visits and use of psychotherapy services.

This data was combined with UK Theatre and SOLT’s 2018 audience attendance figures (collected from nearly 300 venues nationwide), which show that over 34m people attended the theatre that year. Taking into account repeat attendance and attendance of other cultural or sporting events - and applying the DCMS and Simetrica benchmarking - the figure of £102,234,585 was reached.

Victoria Hume, Executive Director of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance, said:

"We know from a significant and growing body of international research that the arts, creativity and culture are critically important to sustaining our health, to tackling major social problems like loneliness and isolation, and to building our communities.

This startling statistic is yet another important piece in the puzzle, and drives home the message that we cannot dismiss the arts and culture as nice-to-haves. We know that our resilience is dramatically impacted by our ability to access our creativity and build the culture that surrounds us. This has kept many of us going through lockdown, although research also shows inequalities in cultural participation have been reinforced by Covid.

It will be essential to our safe recovery as a country that we invest to ensure greater equity and support the kind of forward-looking, partnership-based work this report describes."