Art prolongs life and helps maintain health

Visiting museums and performances, contemplating paintings, participating in theatrical productions and singing in a choir - all these activities not only help to improve your aesthetic taste and creative skills. Research in recent years has shown that active involvement in cultural life is the most important factor in prolonging life and improving mental and physical health.

Art classes allow you to extend your life by more than 30%

Scientists from king's College London have established: the more often elderly people attend exhibitions, concerts, performances and film screenings, the longer they live. English experts observed a group of 6,710 people whose average age at the beginning of the study was 65.9 years for 14 years (from 2002 to 2016). Some subjects almost never attended cultural events, others did it no more than once or twice a year, and others - once every few months or more often. During the follow-up, 2001 participants (29.8%) passed away.

Experts compared data on the death of older people with the degree of their cultural activity. It turned out that 47.5% of those who died were people who rarely or never engaged in cultural activities, 26.6% - those who attended events no more than once or twice a year, and only 18.6% - participants with the highest degree of "involvement" in the arts.

Scientists have calculated that devotees of cultural leisure had a 14% lower risk of dying, compared with those who went to concerts and vernissages no more than twice a year, and 31% compared with participants who are far from the arts. Among the factors that make attending art-related events help to prolong life, experts called the improvement of cognitive abilities of the brain, which is associated with a constant "influx" of new experiences.

Also, fans of visiting theaters and museums are more likely to meet new people and generally communicate more, which increases the "social capital" and reduces the feeling of loneliness. "Engaged in art" people can also be described as "easier to lift": compared with stay-at-home people, they move more, strengthening the cardiovascular system.

WHO recommends art for the treatment and prevention of diseases

In November 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the largest research report on the role of art in the preservation of health and the treatment of diseases. Scientists from University College London, who prepared a report commissioned by WHO, analyzed more than 3,000 studies. Summarizing the obtained results, the experts stressed that the arts 

  • help reduce stress hormones and stimulate the immune system,
  • improve physical and mental health in people with neurological disorders and non-communicable diseases, including cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases,
  • help vulnerable children cope with anxiety and aggression, help in social adaptation,
  • affect the social determinants of health (the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age), contributing to the reduction of social inequality.

WHO experts emphasize that to improve the health of people is important both active classes in various types of creativity: dancing, drawing, singing, playing music, etc., and contemplation of works of art: visiting museums, performances, concerts, etc. According to experts, research proving that art can have a therapeutic and health-improving effect, indicate the need to consider health not only in the physiological but also in a broader social context.

Art classes reduce the risk of dying from various causes

The more often people join the art, the lower their risk of dying from various diseases, primarily from cardiovascular diseases - this is the conclusion of scientists from the Finnish Institute of occupational health. The study, which was published in 2009, involved about eight thousand employees of Finnish enterprises aged 18 to 65 years (at the time of the study). The observation period was 18 years (from 1986 to 2004). During an observation, 781 people died, with the main causes of death being cardiovascular disease (309 cases), cancer (223 cases), death from external causes (111 cases, including murder and suicide) and alcoholism.  

It was found that among young people who regularly attend events, there was a lower mortality rate from external factors and alcoholism. According to experts, this is because people engaged in cultural activities are less likely to be in dangerous places. Also, attending cultural events helps to increase the number and strengthen social ties, does not allow a person to feel alone, helps in the prevention of depression and improves mental health. This leads to a decrease in the likelihood of suicide and the development of alcohol dependence.

In people over 40, involvement in cultural activities was associated with lower mortality from heart disease. Scientists consider positive emotions that reduce stress levels, high social activity and strengthening of social ties to be the factors that help protect people from heart disease, which has been proven to play a crucial role in the prevention of cardiovascular accidents.

Attending cultural events saves you from depression and dementia 

One of the causes of brain aging, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease is depression. This fact was proved in a study at Yale University. Therefore, one of the measures to prevent the development of age-related neurodegenerative disorders is to prevent depression in older people. Experts from Imperial College of London in 2019 published data that confirmed: people who are actively involved in cultural activities are much less likely to suffer from depression.

The study, conducted by English scientists, involved 2148 elderly people. For 10 years, experts tracked the relationship between the frequency of visits to exhibitions, concerts, performances, etc. and the development of depression. It turned out that people who found time for "immersion in art" every few months suffered from depression 32% less likely than participants who neglected cultural life. Among those who went to exhibitions or performances once a month or more, the probability of developing depression was lower by 48%.

Creative activity at work improves brain function

Experts from the Stockholm Institute of stress (Sweden) in 2019 published a review of research on the benefits of cultural events held in the workplace. Thus, the observation of a group of 16.5 thousand participants over 12 years (2006-2018) showed that people involved in art classes in the workplace are much less likely to suffer from depressive disorders, and they also have improved brain performance.

Among the cultural events that were held directly in the workplace, both passive and active types of art classes were indicated. Passive ones included watching movies together, listening to music, organizing exhibitions in the office, or inviting artists to perform. Research has shown that participating in these types of leisure activities has a less positive effect on people's mood and brain function than actively contributing to activities.

Among the forms of active leisure that were practiced in the workplace, indicated choral singing, playing musical instruments, theater performances, drawing courses, writing training. The most effective way to prevent depression and improve brain activity was active participation of employees in activities with regularity at least once a week.

Visiting museums prevent the development of Alzheimer's

In 2018, researchers from University College London in a study found a link between the frequency of Museum visits and the risk of dementia. 3911 thousand people were involved, the average age was 63.8 years. Over 10 years of follow-up, 246 people (6.3%) showed signs of senile dementia. It turned out that most of the patients were people who had never visited a Museum or did it no more than once a year, while the participants who made visits to museums every few months and more often, in the group with dementia were the least. 

Experts believe that the positive effect is because frequent visits to museums stimulate the formation of new neural connections in the brain, improve the ability to learn, train memory, give opportunities to communicate with new people, and is a light form of physical activity. All this is fairly effective prevention of age-related dementia and can be recommended for older people to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Choral singing prolongs life

Joint singing events have a positive impact on the quality and duration of life. This is the conclusion of experts from the University of Sussex (England). For 7 years, scientists have conducted research to determine how different types of group activity affect the life and health of a person. During this time, more than 300 thousand people came to the attention of specialists. According to the researchers, art classes in a group, including singing in a choir, increase life expectancy by up to 50%. Scientists believe that the positive impact of choral singing on health is due to many factors:

  • While singing, people experience a rush of positive emotions, which has a positive effect on the work of the heart and other organs;
  • Singing helps to enrich the blood with oxygen, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and other conditions caused by oxygen deficiency;
  • Singing helps to improve physical and mental well-being, which is important during the progression of age-related diseases, for example, it helps to reduce the intensity of pain and prevents depression;
  • Choral singing contributes to the expansion and strengthening of social ties, strengthens the sense of identity and belonging to society, which has a positive effect on self-esteem and creates conditions for social integration.

Experts say that choral singing is no less effective for maintaining health and prolonging life than a healthy diet, smoking cessation, obesity prevention, and optimal physical activity.

Conclusion

Among the bonuses that art gives to people is not only self-realization but also a significant improvement in health. At the same time, almost all studies on this topic emphasize: creative activity is beneficial only if you regularly join it. Also, it is obvious that the chance to prolong life is higher for those people who not only act as a passive spectator but also actively participate in creative processes.

Therefore, it is never too late to take up drawing, go to theater or writing training, sign up for a choral circle or clay modeling courses. It's important to remember: with the undoubted benefit of independent creative activities for health is more useful collective events where you can communicate with people, make new friends, feel part of society.

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