¿What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?

Tipo de documento: Investigación institucional

Año: 2019

Lugar: Europa


While the arts have always been conceptually difficult to define, there are a number of cross-cultural characteristics recognized as fundamental to art. These include the art object (whether physical or experiential) being valued in its own right rather than merely as a utility; providing imaginative experiences for both the producer and audience; and comprising or provoking an emotional response. In addition, the production of art is characterized by requiring novelty, creativity or originality; requiring specialized skills; and relating to the rules of form, composition or expression (either conforming or diverging) (1–3).

These criteria provide the boundaries for deciding what constitutes art, but the specific types of art within these boundaries are diverse and fluid. In relation to health research, engagement with the arts has been proposed as consisting of five broad categories (4):

• performing arts (e.g. activities in the genre of music, dance, theatre, singing and film);

• visual arts, design and craft (e.g. crafts, design, painting, photography, sculpture and textiles);

•literature (e.g. writing, reading and attending literary festivals);

• culture (e.g. going to museums, galleries, art exhibitions, concerts, the theatre, community events, cultural festivals and fairs); and

• online, digital and electronic arts (e.g. animations, film-making and computer graphics).

These categories combine both active and receptive engagement and, importantly, also transcend cultural boundaries and contain flexibility to allow new art forms to develop (as evidenced in the development of online, digital and electronic arts over recent years). For the purposes of this review, this conceptual definition of art (combining common attributes but allowing fluidity in categorization) is followed. While there are other activities that fulfil many of the categories listed above (e.g. gardening, cooking and volunteering), consensus research has suggested these may be seen as creative but are not generally considered as arts, particularly when cross-referenced with definitions from national arts councils (5–7); consequently, these were not included in the review (4). Similarly, this review did not focus on architecture or the design of buildings. However, some secondary references to the use of visual art in health settings are made.


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