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David Baxter

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Artistic pursuits ease anxiety and depression
Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Getting involved with arts activities can help keep us healthy, according to a new study from Britain's Manchester Metropolitan University. The three year HM Treasury-funded project has shown that engaging with things like painting, dance, crafts, music and story-telling can increase our psychological well-being and lower levels of anxiety and depression.

The research found that participants felt happier, empowered and more confident after engaging in arts initiatives. The study involved over 100 participants and was lead by Clive Parkinson, from the university's Faculty of Art and Design. "We found projects that stimulate people's minds and encourage them to be creative can have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing," he said. "The arts can help create a positive environment and build positive relationships which can make people feel more resilient, in control and give them a sense of purpose which leads to greater energy and enthusiasm for life."

The project involved investigating arts initiatives that take place in a variety of settings including hospitals as well as the wider community and monitoring the effect they have on the participants. The researchers suggest that people who are ill, depressed or isolated often have a diminished capacity to deal with challenges and are a demotivator of healthy behavior so by re-inspiring them and helping them feel in control of their lives through arts initiatives, their capacity for coping and wellbeing is increased.

The research also discovered that these arts initiatives have a positive impact on healthcare staff as well as the patients - job satisfaction was significantly increased among workers involved with creative activities compared to a control group.

The aim of the study was to explore the belief that arts and creative initiatives can improve public health and wellbeing. Mr Parkinson believes these results will help pave the way for further arts initiatives within the National Health Service. "Using the arts to promote health has been viewed as a potential for a while now but with a lack of evidence it was hard to get it onto the agenda," he said. "Hopefully, this new evidence will bring to light the huge difference this can make to people's lives and it can start to be incorporated into Government policy."

Commentating on the study broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, a keen supporter of the Arts for Health movement said "This is an important project. The arts have an impact on all our lives in a variety of ways, depending how we choose to engage with them. The findings of this report give us a valuable insight not only into the relationship between creativity, the arts and public health but also on the effect and reach of the arts in the 21st Century."
 

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