We all know that art can change your life, but what about helping to save it? A new report has found evidence that the arts bring a wide range of health benefits, speeding medical recoveries and improving overall quality of life. Released last week in the U.K., “Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing” details numerous instances where the arts offered medical improvements for those of every age. That includes art therapy (which reduced agitation in those with dementia) and music (lullabies were seen to calm the heart, lessening the hospital stays for newborn children in neonatal intensive care).
The nearly 200-page document is the result of two years of research, part of an investigation co-chaired by the Labour Party’s Alan Howarth and Conservative Ed Vaizey, both former arts ministers. It’s supplemented with over 300 testimonials from health professionals, patients, policy makers and artists—many available online.
The report also estimates that arts-related health benefits can help save Britain’s cash-strapped National Health Service (NHS) money. But while there is a “an expanding body of research and evaluation” supporting the evidence, a “culture change” is needed, given that both health and arts professionals tend to overlook art’s ability to make a meaningful impact on the NHS’s budget and patient outcomes.
“We are calling for an informed and open-minded willingness to accept that the arts can make a significant contribution to addressing a number of the pressing issues faced by our health and social care systems,” writes Howarth in the report’s introduction.
The document highlights potentially scalable case studies. For instance, in Gloucestershire—a county in the southwest of England—patients suffering from a range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, were prescribed an eight-week art course. Operated by the charity Artlift, the program was found to reduce doctor consultation rates by 37% and hospital admissions by 27%, according to University of Gloucestershire analysis. This amounted to a £216 saving for the NHS per patient.
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