Connectforce's Learn with Us Series: No 1
The role of arts in health and well-being
We all recognise that familiar rush of joy when you hear a song that brings back a memory, we know that dancing can make you smile and that writing can spark your creativity. But why? For our introductory learning series we wanted to discover the reasons behind this, and also explore the potential for arts and creativity to improve the health and well-being of society at large.
Read on and join us on our journey of discovery…
The UK is facing huge public health challenges. Poor mental health accounts for over 20 percent of these challenges - that’s more than cancer and cardiovascular disease - and the number of people with long-term mental health conditions is drastically increasing year by year.
We also know that our older population is at risk of high levels of physical inactivity and increased social isolation - two things which are known to negatively impact an individual's mental health. It’s no secret that the pandemic has fiercely exacerbated these factors, with the UK's elderly community becoming completely cut off.
Since we began our work at Connectforce, we’ve had numerous conversations with caregivers about the declining mental health of the older people in their care, with statements such as “People have given up and died” being commonplace. The COVID crisis has brought the systematic problems of social isolation to light, and it is vital that innovative, people-led solutions are put in place to combat this.
The Solution (or, at least, one of them)!
It’s widely recognised that through getting involved in arts programmes, people in later life can rebuild their social connections and extend existing support in their communities. Connections built on creativity help to alleviate loneliness and isolation. This is also true within care homes, where arts activities increase social interactions between residents and staff, and can improve mood and wellbeing.1
Did you know...?
Almost 80% live a healthier life after engaging with the arts.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Well-being ‘Creative Health’ report in 2017 found that:
79% of people in deprived areas of London live more healthily after engaging with the arts
77% engage in more physical activity
82% enjoy greater well-being
How it works. Music stimulates different parts of the brain and can help people of all ages to express their feelings and connect with past memories. It imprints itself in the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music has also been proven to help improve overall health and wellbeing – it lowers stress-related hormones, maintains cognitive health, encourages social and communication skills, and enhances physical health through movement.
For people in later life, music therapy is an effective approach for reducing behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia such as delusions, agitation, anxiety, apathy, and irritability, and night-time disturbances.2
So, it’s clear that there’s a wealth of evidence to display the cognitive benefits gained from creative activity. There’s a huge societal gain to be recognised as a result of implementing art and arts-based therapies as a standard tool within healthcare. Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits:
Patient Care: The incorporation of the arts into healthcare has a positive impact on patient health outcomes.
Healthcare Environments: The arts serve to create safer, more stimulating, supportive and functional environments in healthcare settings.
Caring for Caregivers: Caregivers and patients’ family members are faced with the realities of human suffering, illnesses, and death on a daily basis. Engagement with the arts is proven to help with the associated mental strain.
Community Well-being: Arts in health can benefit communities by supporting the promotion of prevention and wellness activities, improving knowledge, increasing self-esteem and developing more effective collaborative coping mechanisms.
“Policy should work towards creative activity being part of all our lives”
in order to positively scale-up this work and increase public
awareness and understanding of the role of arts in health.
We must encourage best practice, shared ethics, research & evaluation to achieve this. Equally importantly, we must celebrate and support arts activities as proactive positive health tools. It's imperative that the arts are taken seriously as a tool for improving the mental health and well-being of all ages.
The Arts Council and NHS collaborate and agree on moving this conversation forward, however, it’s down to individual organisations to make that leap of faith and offer solutions that make a difference.
Connectforce works to create lasting
connections between the arts world and the elderly.
Feedback and research explains why we are so passionate about reaching as many people as we possibly can. Our programmes are meticulously designed with our beneficiaries in mind, and we want to do all we can to share the positive power of the arts, and bring creative connection to as many people as possible.
We look forward to continuing to educate ourselves to learn how we can best continue to do this.
We hope you enjoy joining us along the way!
The Connectforce Team x
2. National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18525288/
3. 3.Ireland’s Health Services