We celebrate children’s creativity, in all it’s various stages and forms. During primary school years the family fridge becomes an ever changing art gallery, we encourage them to dance and sing and cherish the various sculptures etc. that come home from school every week… Most notable children’s hospitals have dedicated arts and creativity programmes to enrich the healthcare experience for their patients.
Sadly for most young people their artistic adventures begin to fall away throughout high school, with increasing focus falling on ‘proper’ subjects such as maths, English, sciences etc. Subjects that students are told will lead to ‘sensible’ jobs in adult life. Only a small number of young people continue to develop their creativity and go on to study these areas in further education.
For many people our interaction with creativity throughout the vast majority of our lives is restricted to listening to music, watching films and, if we are being really cultured, we might venture out to an art gallery now and again…
Then comes old age and aged care facilities, where suddenly there’s a revived interest in engaging older people in creativity. Once again we recognise the positive potential of creative activities and we encourage knitting, dancing, singing and any number of other creative activities to keep minds busy and dementia at bay.
However there is ever growing research which proves – beyond doubt – that participating in creative activities is good for us in a range of ways. A nationwide survey Healthy Attendance? The Impact of Cultural Engagement and Sports Participation on Health and Satisfaction with Life in Scotland, reported
There is consistent evidence that people who participate in culture and sport or attend cultural places or events are more likely to report that their health is good and they are satisfied with their life than those who do not participate. This finding 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.
The survey showed that people who had attended a cultural place or event in the previous year were almost 60% more likely to report good health compared to those who had not.
Health conditions which have been shown to benefit from creative activity include anxiety, depression and other mental health issues; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); chronic pain; stroke rehabilitation, and obesity – to name but a few. Creative engagement has also been shown to reduces stress hormones, but creativity offers other wider benefits to society – Art and culture build stronger communities; listening to music can improve unconscious attitudes towards other cultures; exercising together boosts performance and forges friendships, music and dance can make significant neurological changes.
There are some examples of visionary healthcare providers who are actually prescribing arts and culture in response to a number of health conditions. So if we can be prescribed creative activities to improve poor health then surely it would be worth encouraging creative participation for everyone, why wait until we are unwell, stressed of depressed? With ever increasing research and understanding of the very real, physical and mental benefits of arts and creativity, why aren’t we engaging more in creative activities throughout our lives, not just during childhood and old age – in sickness and in health?
Victoria Jones is an international arts and creativity consultant with extensive experience across the creative sector both in the UK and Australia. Founder of the multi award winning GO Create! programme at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, London (recently rebranded ‘GOSH Arts’) and the ARCH arts programme for the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, as well as the Creative Communities program for London Underground’s Art on the Underground. Victoria now leads independent international arts health consultancy Arts Health Associates, www.artshealthassociates.com