The EU Culture For Health Report 2022

The EU Culture For Health Report 2022

This report offers a “broad overview of the existing evidence of the effect of arts and cultural activities on health and well-being”. It provides an overview of 310 studies, with the conclusion that arts and culture can play a role in health and social care policy, not only as an “add-on to existing treatment” but also as “health care responses in their own right” (Culture for Health 2022 p9).

The evidence points towards associations between art-related cultural activities and positive health outcomes including: improvements to quality of life; general and psychological well-being; increased social engagement; reduction in experiences of depression and anxiety; improved health-related quality of life in patients with chronic health conditions; prevention of cognitive decline in older adults; and the development of cognitive, emotional and social skills.

The report specifies the particular health-benefits of photography as an intervention as stress-reduction, self-reflection and self-expression and the broader visual arts to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, to promote the finding of meaning and to generate a positive therapeutic environment. The report is very broad and references a significant number of projects worth further examination.

The summary of evidence (p33-38) describes how:

“engaging in various art activities and interventions can have mental health benefits for children and youth, improve the mental health and well-being in working adults and enable improved quality of life, social contact and mental health and well-being in older adults (Jensen et al., 2020)” (p33)”.

“An arts on prescription programme proposing participation of people dealing with anxiety, depression, social isolation
or chronic pain in varied art forms demonstrated significant improvements in global well-being – namely improved
mood and reduced tension – during and after participation (Holt, 2020). Previous studies (Crone et al., 2013; Crone et
al., 2018) also showed that arts on prescription programmes can lead to significant improvements in the well-being of
people with mental health conditions (including multiple morbidities) ” (p35).

“Active engagement with a variety of creative activities… can benefit individuals with mental health conditions through improved emotion regulation strategies (Fancourt & Ali, 2019), increased experience of positive emotions (Dingle et al., 2017), well-being (Leckey, 2011; Holt, 2020), increased energy, motivation, reduced panic attacks (Jensen, 2019), and improved self-acceptance and identity in relation to being mentally ill (Buchan, 2020; Ørjasæter & Ness, 2017; Julier et al., 2018; Slattery et al., 2020; Sitvast & Springer, 2020)” (p35).

The specific outcomes of photography and film as a participatory discipline evidenced specific outcomes as: Support in dealing with problematic issues, an enhanced sense of empowerment, enhanced therapeutic relationships, mental processing, peer support, expressing creativity, sense of achievement, enjoyment (p46) Self-actualisation, reflection and awareness (p49) as a tool for communication and self-expression (p49) for enabling people with mental illness to work through problematic issues (p58). Museum visits and creative workshops also enhance a sense of self-empowerment and the realisation of new meaning in life for mental health service users (p58) and reduced feelings of social isolation, marginalisation and stigma in young people (p59 / p64) and community enabled art in the form of participatory photography is linked to the empowerment of individuals and communities (p91).

It was also noted that the materials and equipment involved in activities can be a source of frustration for participants, for example it was identified in one particular study that photography equipment was an obstacle for some people (p116)