Researchers have just discovered that going to art museums and galleries is linked with a longer life, and the more often people go, the better their health and the longer their lifespan is. The results of this new study support previous studies that have found that engaging with the arts can improve a person’s physical and mental well-being, including depression, dementia, chronic pain, and frailty.
This was a longitudinal study. Participants were part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and included 6,000 adults aged 50 years and over.
Frequency of arts activities, including, going to the theatre, concerts, opera, museums, art galleries, and exhibitions, was measured at the start of the study in 2004-2005. Participants were then followed for 12 years, during which time deaths were recorded using NHS mortality data.
Researchers controlled for factors such as a range of economic, health and social factors (e.g. mobility problems, deprivation, wealth, and retirement).
Study results overview
People who engaged in arts activities once or twice a year had a 14 per cent lower risk of dying at any time during the follow-up period than those who never engaged (3.5 deaths per 1,000 person years versus 6 deaths per 1,000 person years).
People who engaged in arts activities more frequently (every few months or more) had a 31 percent lower risk of dying (2.4 deaths per 1,000 person years).
This protective association was largely explained by differences in cognition, mental health, and physical activity levels among those who did and did not engage in the arts.
It is time to make a New Year resolution to regularly visit art galleries and arts and culture museums beginning in the new year–and be sure to take along a neighbor or family member who may be susceptible to depression or loneliness!
Journal Reference: D. Fancourt & Steptoe, A. (December 2019), The art of life and death: 14 year follow-up analyses of associations between arts engagement and mortality in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, BMJ, 2019;367:l6377. source; doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6377