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Arts and Health

There is a growing amount of evidence that engaging with the arts and culture can positively impact on our health and wellbeing. When used alongside medicine to complement other forms of care, the use of the arts and creative practices can benefit the physical and mental health of patients in a number of ways, such as encouraging social engagement and inclusion; enabling people to better express their experiences; improving healthcare environments, and providing opportunities for play, creativity and curiosity. The arts can therefore reduce boredom and loneliness, as well as improve wellbeing and quality of life. They can both keep us well when healthy, and can aid our recovery when unwell.

How has the AHRC supported research in the arts and health?

In 2014, an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) was formed, with the aim of improving awareness and understanding of how the arts can bring benefits to health and wellbeing. In 2017, it produced the results of an Inquiry into practice and research within the arts in health and social care titled Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, partly funded by the AHRC. The report details the results of two years of research and evidence gathering from across the sector and a range of perspectives.

The AHRC has additionally supported a range of projects in this area, including:

Case study

The art of social prescribing: informing policy on creative interventions in mental health care

Social prescribing is a means for primary care services (such as GPs) to refer patients to local, non-clinical services that have the potential to help meet that person’s social, emotional or practical needs. Such services, often provided through voluntary and community organisations, can provide a wide range of activities that may be beneficial to adults experiencing stress-related symptoms, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Within Merseyside, there are many examples of arts-based initiatives and interventions in mental health care, including major organisations such as National Museums Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and The Reader Organisation.

In this project, the learning outcomes generated by these programmes were used to inform future clinical commissioning policy on arts and cultural interventions in mental health care, and to strategically develop effective arts-based social prescribing in the city. Visit the art of social prescribing project website to read more about the work done and the results it produced.

Research impact and achievements:

  • Research findings from the project were submitted to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) Inquiry into the arts in health in 2016.
  • The project contributed to Liverpool’s cultural strategy (2018-48), and to Liverpool’s Mayoral Commission on Creativity that examined cultural policy in relation to health and wellbeing in the region.
  • The project therefore had a lasting impact on both local and national policy related to the arts in health and wellbeing.

Associated image copyright: marc falardeau on Flickr by CC2.0