Culture is good for your health!

Posted on 19/08/2013 by

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Research shows a clear link for the first time

Participation in culture is significantly linked to good health and high life satisfaction in Scotland, new research shows. A detailed study carried out by Scottish Government analysts and published today, confirms for the first time that cultural engagement is having a positive impact on the nation’s health and life satisfaction.

The study, based on data from the Scottish Household Survey 2011, considered the impact on health of both culture and sport.  It found that those who participate in culture or attend cultural places or events are more likely to report good health and life satisfaction that those who do not.  This remains true even when other factors such as age, economic status, income, area deprivation, education qualification, disability or long standing illness and smoking are accounted for.

Key findings show:

  • Those who attended a cultural place or event in the previous 12 months were almost 60 per cent more likely to report good health compared to those who did not.
  • Those who participated in a creative or cultural activity in the previous 12 months were 38 per cent more likely to report good health compared to those who did not.
  • Those who visited a library and those who visited a museum were almost 20 per cent more likely to report good health than those who had not.
  • Those who visited a theatre were almost 25 per cent more likely to report good health than those who did not.
  • Those who participated in dance were 62 per cent more likely to report good health than those who did not.
  • Those who read for pleasure were 33 per cent more likely to report good health than those who did not.

The research follows data from the 2010 Scottish Household Survey that shows that people who are encouraged to participate in cultural activity as children are more likely to continue to do so into adulthood.

It also builds on evidence from the major longitudinal study ‘Growing Up in Scotland’ that shows that from the youngest ages, most children in Scotland are exposed to cultural activities, and that this has an impact on their cognitive development.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This Government is committed to promoting and supporting cultural activities because we recognise and value the potential benefits not only to individuals but also to our communities.

“Cumulatively, this growing evidence base is giving us more insight into the benefits that taking part in cultural and creative activities brings – at every life stage.

“Starting young, and being encouraged to take part in culture as a child, makes it more likely that the benefits of taking part will be experienced as an adult.

“That’s why this Government has funded activities like Bookbug, Scottish Book Trust’s Early Years programme, which encourages parents and children to read together from birth, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Astar CD which is helping parents in Scotland to introduce their babies to the joy of music.”

Heather Stuart, Chair of VOCAL, said: “Those of us who are involved in the delivery of culture and sport services on a daily basis have never been in any doubt about the positive impact they have on peoples’ health and wellbeing and quality of life.  We see it every day.

“I am therefore delighted that this study evidences so well, and so robustly, the relationship between taking part in culture and sport activities, attendance at cultural places, and quality of life.

“Evidence like this needs to inform the longer term debate about the wider impact of these services and how they contribute to the wellbeing of the population and the priorities of central and local government.

“Their contribution in addressing the key challenges for Scotland around the physical and mental health of the population is clear.  There is no doubt culture and sport services are effective preventative medicine.”

Mark O’Neill, Director of Policy & Research, Glasgow Life, commented:
“This is a really ground-breaking piece of work for Scotland – and for the UK. It demonstrates, for the first time, a clear association between cultural attendance and improved health and wellbeing. It strengthens the case for cultural participation being included in any assessment of life satisfaction – and in any holistic public health strategy.”

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