Get thee to a gallery?

May 24, 2011

Culture makes you healthier.  So says a report in today’s Irish Times drawing on research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim

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 interesting piece is in the last line though

But the biggest benefits were seen in men who were interested in watching and looking at culture rather than doing creative cultural activities themselves.

Additional reporting from Livescience extends the cultural references to include churchgoing and suggests that

the gender difference between men and women suggests other factors, including stress reduction, may be at play.

I’m not sure the reporting of the study says that culture makes us healthier – there’s an interpretation here that’s a bit tenuous in my opinion.  Here’s a link to the original research and the background statement is interesting also

Cultural participation has been used both in governmental health policies and as medical therapy, based on the assumption that cultural activities will improve health. Previous population studies and a human intervention study have shown that religious, social and cultural activities predict increased survival rate. The aim of this study was to analyse the association between cultural activity and perceived health, anxiety, depression and satisfaction with life in both genders.

I am not sure that this kind of reporting on research does the arts community any service at all – grasping for tenuous links to support the ‘value’ of the arts (be they instrumental or intrinsic) needs to be more rigorous.  Why is the arts community so willing to jump up and down when an external authority suggests that value exists? and where are the supporting arguments from the arts?


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