This page highlights evidence-based research in New Zealand and internationally about the benefits of the arts and culture on our health and wellbeing. If you know of research that provides evidence about the importance for everyone to have access to the arts and culture, please contact Iona McNaughton (E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 04 802 4349).
Literature review of arts benefits
Arts Access Aotearoa has conducted a literature review that examines the benefits that accrue from the delivery of arts programmes in criminal justice settings (in prison, on parole and Community Corrections). These benefits can be monetised to show a return on investment of perhaps four times the cost of an arts programme intervention. It also considers the value of a standardised and comprehensive framework for Arts in Corrections.
The benefits of Arts in Corrections: literature review (PDF 720 KB)
The benefits of Arts in Corrections: literature review (WORD 858 KM)
Report of survey findings
A report, Understanding the Value of Creative Spaces, presents key findings from a survey of creative spaces, intended to provide key decision-makers and agencies with information about the sector to better understand how the sector operates, the services it provides and to whom. Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Associate Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage, Minister for Social Development and Minister for Disability Issues requested that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Office for Disability Issues and the Ministry of Social Development, with assistance from Arts Access Aotearoa, undertake a study on creative spaces to provide information about the sector. The report was released on 9 July 2019.
Te Ora Auaha Creative Wellbeing Alliance Aotearoa
Te Ora Auaha is a national network and resource for anyone interested in the contribution of the arts to health and wellbeing. Its vision is of a flourishing Aotearoa New Zealand through the arts, and it aims to connect people working in this diverse and innovative field to grow a thriving community of practice. Its website includes extensive research and resources.
Research on benefits of Arts Integrated programmes
A qualitative study evaluating the impact of programmes offered at the Arts Integrated creative space in Christchurch has been released. The study used the Most Significant Change Analysis technique, which involves collecting stories from people and stakeholders closely involved in the programme to evaluate the impacts and changes as a result of the programme's involvement. Read more and download the report
Research on arts and youth wellbeing
An article about research that maps the ecosystem of programming for arts and wellbeing practices is available on the Te Ora Auaha website. This research focuses on programming in Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland, home to diverse, innovative arts and wellbeing practices specifically for youth. However, the current policy and funding context presents significant challenges for artists and organisations working in this area of the arts, impacting on growth, sustainability and positive impact. These are some of the findings from a research project conducted by the Critical Research Unit in Applied Theatre (CRUAT) at the University of Auckland. Download the executive summary
Community Research gathers research about New Zealand’s tangata whenua, community and voluntary sectors. Current topics range from advocacy to arts and culture, crime and safety, disability, law and justice, research and evaluation, and Whanau Ora. It aims to provide a hub for iwi and community organisations to share their knowledge and advocates for good practice community research methods. Visit the website
What Works: demonstrating your value
What Works is a website hosted by Community Research. It’s about helping people, especially smaller community groups, the value of their work by gathering robust data and information to tell a story about what they are doing and the difference it makes. Visit the website
Impact of Ōtautahi Creative Spaces
Findings from research demonstrate the “profound” impact of Ōtautahi Creative Spaces’ programmes on artists’ mental health and wellbeing. Analysis of the innovative arts programme by Ihi Research and Development has revealed how it has helped those involved to become more connected and resilient with improved social skills. Evaluation for Ōtautahi Creative Spaces Trust
Disability access in Aotearoa New Zealand museums
Path to Accessibility: the current state of disability access in Aotearoa New Zealand museums is a dissertation written by Riah King-Wall for Victoria University. How are museums and galleries around New Zealand engaging with communities of people with disabilities, and consulting with representatives from the disability sector and cultural organisations? A nationwide survey of 41 museums and galleries explored various aspects of disability access, including physical ingress, inclusive exhibition design, tailored public programming, digital accessibility, and levels of disability representation in staff and management positions.
Australia: Arts and creative industries in health promotion
A review by VicHealth in Australia, based on research from 56 studies and reviews published since 2015, shows that while the arts has a place in the lives of 98% of Australians, most people don’t spend enough time engaging in arts activities to achieve health benefits. It’s also recognised that not everyone has equal opportunity to engage in the arts. The review says that diverse and meaningful strategies are needed to ensure those who face barriers to arts engagement are given equal opportunities to benefit from the arts. Read more
UK: Drumming helps school children with autism
Drumming for 60 minutes a week can benefit children diagnosed with autism and supports learning at school, according to a new scientific study. The project, led by the University of Chichester and University Centre Hartpury in the UK, showed students’ ability to follow their teachers’ instructions improved significantly and enhanced their social interactions between peers and members of school staff. The study reports drumming not only improves dexterity, rhythm and timing for people with autism, it also helps improve concentration and enhances communication with peers. Read more
Report identifies major health role for the arts
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report released in November 2019, has found that the arts can impact people’s mental and physical health. The Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report focuses on global evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing, with a specific focus on the WHO European Region. Evidence includes the results of more than 3000 studies, identifying a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan. Read the report
Denmark: Culture vitamins to combat depression
Depression affects 300 million people across the globe and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It costs the global economy $1 trillion every year but fewer than half of those affected receive any treatment. Denmark is trying a different approach: People with depression are encouraged to take part in cultural activities. They call it Kulturvitaminer – “culture vitamins” – and it is being trialled in four cities. As well as avoiding drugs and their side-effects, Kulturvitaminer does not require the direct involvement of clinical staff but can be run by trained lay people. It involves getting people together in small groups to experience everything from concerts to communal singing. Read more
UK: Arts’ contribution to health and wellbeing
Arts and Minds, a leading arts and mental health charity in the UK, has been running weekly art workshops for people experiencing depression, stress or anxiety for the past seven years. Led by an artist and counsellor, its Arts on Prescription project offers a chance to work with a range of materials and techniques. An evaluation revealed a 71% decrease in feelings of anxiety and a 73% fall in depression; 76% of participants said their wellbeing increased and 69% felt more socially included. Read The Guardian article
UK: Even minimal creative activity boosts wellbeing, research finds
Research commissioned by BBC Arts has shown that even spending short periods of time doing something creative helps people's mental wellbeing. Benefits include helping people manage stress, face challenges, and find solutions to problems. Read the article
US: Art and music as therapy calms traumatised teens
Music and art are being used as a form of therapy for teens who have faced various forms of trauma, and are proving to be helpful both physically and psychologically. Among other things, they help people to express their feelings, reducing stress. Read the article
UK: The power of music - Vicky McClure's dementia choir
British actress Vicky McClure has put together a choir for people with dementia, in memory of her grandmother who had the condition. There is increasing proof that music can help people with dementia live happy, fulfilling lives, and Vicky McClure's choir has been part of a study run by a professor at University College London into how this works. Read the article
UK: Art courses improve mental wellbeing
Researchers at the University of Gloucestershire have recently evaluated data from nearly 1,300 primary care patients in South West England, finding a course of arts-on-prescription to provide a significant improvement in overall wellbeing, including in those with very complex care needs. UnlArts-on-prescription schemes provide art courses where patients can choose to learn how to draw, paint, create mosaics or write. The courses are led by local artists, and are community-based rather than being based on specific medical needs. Read the article
UK: The arts for health and wellbeing
Creative Health, a 2017 report from an All-Party Parliamentary Group in the UK, presents comprehensive evidence on the beneficial impact of the arts. It’s the result of two years of research, evidence-gathering and discussions with patients, health and social care professionals, artists and arts administrators, academics, people in local government, ministers, other policy-makers and parliamentarians. In the report’s Foreword, Rt Hon Lord Howard says: “We offer a challenge to habitual thinking and ask for new collaborations to be formed across conventional boundaries. We are calling for an informed and open-minded willingness to accept that the arts can make a significant contribution to addressing a number of the pressing issues faced by our health and social care systems. The evidence we present shows how arts-based approaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life. We also show how arts interventions can save money and help staff in their work.”