From Prince to Picasso, the arts can be just the tonic, new UN health agency study shows

UN Photo/JC McIlwaine An Indian dance is performed at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


From before birth, to the end of life, taking to the dance floor or sketching a still life, can positively affect our health and even prove more cost-effective than conventional medical treatment, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found in a new study published on Monday.

The Health Evidence Synthesis report, from WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, analysed evidence from over 900 publications supporting ways in which the arts can help improve physical and mental health, in the most comprehensive review of its kind to date.

The report reviewed the health benefits (either through active or passive participation) in five broad categories of arts: performing arts (music, dance, singing, theatre, film); visual arts (crafts, design, painting, photography); literature (writing, reading, attending literary festivals); culture (going to museums, galleries, concerts, the theatre); and online arts (including animation and digital arts).

Piroska Östlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said in a Monday press statement that examples cited in the groundbreaking study, “consider health and well-being in a broader societal and community context, and offer solutions that common medical practice has so far been unable to address effectively.”

Different kinds of cultural and artistic engagement can trigger psychological, physiological, social and behavioural responses, linked to health outcomes, report authors explain, and art as medicine can be distinguished into two broad themes; prevention and promotion, and management and treatment.

For the former, music specifically selected to inspire attitudes of independence and self-empowerment helped HIV patients stay on course with treatment programmes, decreasing the volume of the virus in their bodies.

Art therapy sessions during cancer treatment have been shown to reduce the adverse side-effects of drowsiness, lack of appetite or energy, and depression.

Focusing on management and treatment, expecting mothers who engaged in weekly art therapy sessions helped reduce their fear of childbirth, and the general depression and anxiety sometimes associated with becoming a new parent. Singing during pregnancy can strengthen mother-infant bonding, reduce an infant’s crying episodes, and help newborns get a better night’s sleep.

The report indicates that some cultural activities show equivalent – or even greater – cost-effectiveness, as traditional health interventions. Because the arts can provide multiple health-promoting factors within a single activity, they may be better at preventing ailments or disease in the first place, the authors note.

Furthermore, in its various forms, artistic expression can be tailored to each individual, and thus, can help reach minority groups, which are often at higher risk of poor health.

Closing the policy gap

The report outlines policy considerations for decision-makers in the health sector and beyond, including ensuring access to health programmes, promoting public awareness of health benefits of arts engagement, and investment in further research.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, major research developments have traced the effects of art on health and well-being, however, this has not led to significant policy development across Member States within the European region, which was the focus of WHO’s study.

Although since the early 2000s, England, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden have implemented policies enhancing the contribution of art and culture to health and well-being.

Last year, the Secretary-General launched the Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy specifically serving UN personnel. The five-year UN workplace plan aims to create working environments that enhance mental health and well-being, in line with the Sustainable Development target for healthy lives worldwide, SDG 3.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Pharmaceuticals conceal drug side effects with the EU’s Court blessing

Guterres censures terrorist attacks in Nigeria, pledges UN ‘solidarity’

This fascinating map shows how food moves around the US

Burning Amazon rainforests: Darting towards the doom of Human Race

Laws must protect, ‘not reject’ says UNAIDS chief on Zero Discrimination Day

What we know about the Wuhan coronavirus and urgent plans to develop a vaccine

Why are the Balkans’ political leaders meeting in Geneva this week?

State aid: Commission approves €300 million public support for the development of ultrafast broadband network in Greece

Brexit: Is there anybody supporting a non-violent separation?

Business can be profitable AND drive progress on societal priorities

This tool shows you which cities will flood as ice sheets melt

We must work together to build a new world order. This is how we can do it

Commission supports normalisation in Greece through activation of post-programme framework

Brands can be a force for good and for growth. Here’s how

These are the fastest trains in the world

COVID-19: Commission presents guidelines for border measures to protect health and keep goods and essential services available

No end to Deutsche Bank’s problems: new litigations in the US and frailty in EU stress test

SMEs are driving job growth, but need higher investment in skills, innovation and tech to boost wages and productivity

Darfur: Inter-communal tensions still high despite improved security, Mission head tells Security Council

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Draghi reveals how failing banks will be dealt, may cut interest rates soon

European Solidarity Corps: Commission opens new call for project proposals

Will GDPR block Blockchain?

The latest technology isn’t enough – you need the business model to go with it

Busting the myths about coronavirus

IMF’s Lagarde: Ukraine must fight corruption

When is necessary understand the cultural marks in health-disease process

Coronavirus update: UN scales back major conference

Coronavirus: Macro-financial assistance agreement provides for €80 million disbursement to North Macedonia

A Sting Exclusive: “Consumer expectations for the 2015 UN summit on climate change”, Director General of BEUC Monique Goyens outlines from Brussels

Ensuring the ‘lungs of the planet’ keep us alive: 5 things you need to know about forests and the UN

Parliament cuts own spending to facilitate agreement on EU budget

8 amazing facts to help you understand China today

Secretary-General repeats call for support to Lake Chad countries after latest Boko Haram attack

Progress made at COP25, despite lack of agreement to increase climate ambition

French Prime Minister passes Stability Program and takes his ‘café’ in Brussels this June

90% of European Jews say antisemitism is getting worse

Code of Practice against disinformation: Commission calls on signatories to intensify their efforts

World-famous cultural institutions closed due to coronavirus are welcoming virtual visitors

In this Tokyo cafe, the waiters are robots operated remotely by people with disabilities

The inhumane face of crisis mirrored in numbers

Ukraine: The West and Russia negotiate shares of influence

Barriers to healthcare: are they real?

Malta and Slovakia: MEPs warn of lack of judicial independence and corruption

After John Lewis: 21 civil rights leaders who are shaping America

Impact Investment needs global standards and better measurement

These Harvard scientists think we’ll have to socially distance until 2022

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

The world is too complacent about epidemics. Here’s how to change

Rise in number of children killed, maimed and recruited in conflict: UN report

Capital Markets Union: Making it easier for insurers to invest in the real economy

Commission reports on the risks of investor citizenship and residence schemes in the EU and outlines steps to address them

Women’s rights face global pushback from conservativism, fundamentalism – UN experts warn

A clean energy future with hydrogen could be closer than we think

EU budget: Will Germany alone manage Britain’s gap?

How technology will transform learning in the COVID-19 era

After COVID-19, we must rethink how we find and produce new drugs

EU-Turkey deal on migrants kicked off but to who’s interest?

A revolution, an ecosystem, an ocean: 5G is just the beginning

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s