Culture shown to make you healthier


SICK OF public health messages relentlessly advocating exercise and diet? Then get to an art gallery or museum to passively soak up some culture and enjoy better health as a result.

In particular, men who visit art galleries, museums, and the theatre on a regular basis seem to enjoy better health and are more satisfied with life, research published this morning suggests.

Norwegian researchers used questionnaires to see how frequently some 50,800 adults participated in cultural activities. Participants were also asked to rate their perceived state of health and they were formally assessed for levels of anxiety and depression.

The results, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, show that all types of cultural activities were significantly associated with good health in both men and women. And people who engaged in cultural activities had lower levels of depression and anxiety.

As part of the study, Dr Koenraad Cuypers and colleagues from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim divided cultural activities into creative and receptive categories. In creative cultural activities, individuals are actively engaging in a creative process, typically singing, playing an instrument or painting. Receptive cultural activities occur where individuals receive some kind of impressions or experiences – typically visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts and theatres.

The study found that both men and women who participate in creative and receptive cultural activities felt in better health, enjoyed life more, and were less likely to be anxious or depressed than people who do not. But the biggest benefits were seen in men who were interested in watching and looking at culture rather than doing creative cultural activities themselves.