In January and February, we observed how the arts can impact economies and advance social justice. This month, we look at how the arts can impact each of us on a more personal level—in our own health and well-being.
The intersection of arts and health includes a wide range of practices—mental health counseling, physical therapy, healing, prevention, medical training, improving healthcare environments, impacting community health, and even self-care. In all of these, the effect of including the arts has become evident in past decades.
Participation in the arts has specifically been shown to improve the wellness of several groups: students, seniors, veterans, and even healthcare workers and caregivers themselves. Even larger communities benefit when the arts result in a reduction in healing time, resources, and costs.
Americans for the Arts found that over 50 percent of United States hospitals now offer arts programming, and that number continues to rise. Other studies have confirmed a reduction in recovery time (and, therefore, healthcare costs) when access to the arts is part of the healing process. A study among terminal patients and those with chronic diseases has even shown that immune levels increase after patients engage in creative activity. Among older adults, activities such as dancing, painting, playing an instrument, reading and writing lower the risk of dementia.
Several organizations are now dedicated to the study and advancement of arts in health. The National Organization for Arts in Health, The Foundation for Arts & Healing (located in Brookline), and the Institute for Arts and Health (at Lesley University in Cambridge) are among these.
As the month continues, we’ll feature healthcare programs and professionals who actively include the arts in their work. We also plan a public conversation about arts and wellness.
Join us as we continue to explore and celebrate all that art can do!