A research project in Australia has found that a ‘minimum dose’ of arts activity can be an everyday prescription for wellbeing. Dr. Christina Davies of the University of Western Australia found participants needed to do art for a minimum of two hours a week to make a measurable difference to how we feel. But once the participant was involved in at least two hours of arts activity each week, or averaged more than a hundred hours in a year, there was a clear correlation on the standard measure of subjective wellbeing.
Researchers think that the two-hour minimum is a factor, as art requires knowledge and practice to be most rewarding. Dr. Davies said the results showed a relatively small amount of arts activity could make a very big difference to mental health. You only need to practice art for 15-20 minutes a day.
Australian Government policy is beginning to take the value of the arts into account with a taskforce to promote arts for successful ageing set up recently by the New South Wales Minister for Health and a National Arts and Health Framework.
In some countries, such as the UK, doctors have prescribed exercise for treating anxiety and depression, and this important study may broaden this understanding of the connections between wellbeing and activity. Such a link between the arts and health could have major implications for the reduction of dependency on medicines and the increased appreciation of the role of art.
The study adds evidence to the argument that the arts could be a cost effective way of improving mental health. This could lead to campaigns to encourage arts activity and social prescribing, where doctors and therapists recommend arts activity for improved mental health. The implications for individuals are that they should make time to engage in arts activity just as they make time for physical exercise.
Dr. Davies said there was a need for more research funding so that random trials could confirm the causal relationship between arts activity and good mental health.
It is important to note that this is not about looking at or appreciating art (as important as that is), but active involvement for twenty minutes a day in actually creating art.
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