Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Wessex Centre for Implementation Science

Enhancing health, wellbeing and quality of life for all? A reflection on the role of artistic practices in society by Cindy Brooks

Published: 22 January 2018
Hands drawing
Enhancing health and wellbeing through art.

Recognition of the role of artistic and creative practices in enhancing health, wellbeing and quality of life is gaining increasing significance as evident through a number of reports, research and news articles, initiatives and events (1-10).

From the use of art and music to improve healing in the hospital (Arts in Hospital; Paintings in Hospitals) to the promotion of art and creativity through community based organisations, resources and initiatives (Arts and Health South West; Arts in Health Forum; Connections Project - Culliford House; City Arts, Clift et al. 2012)artistic and creative practices fulfil a valuable role in promoting health, wellbeing and quality of life.
For example, in their evaluation of the “Good Times: Art for Older People at Dulwich Picture Gallery”, a programme involving a diverse array of artistic and creative activities e.g. creative gallery workshops, outreach workshops and intergenerational workshops, designed to enhance the lives of older people, the Oxford Institute of Ageing Report presents a number of benefits for programme participants. Amongst these include the alleviation of social isolation by enabling people to establish social networks, but also in terms of transforming how those participating in the programme perceived themselves.
Making works of art provided people with tangible examples of their own accomplishments, positively shaping their self-identity as a creative person and improving their self-worth. The creation of artistic works was also identified as creating a "ripple effect" (p3) shaping staff and coordinators, family and friends perceptions of the person contributing towards challenging wider societal perceptions and representations of ageing. The transformative effect of artistic practices to challenge and improve societal understanding, perception and representations has been recognised in other areas including e.g. ageing and/or dementia equal arts, Created Out of Mind; or disability Healthy Living.
Yet the transformative potential of the arts and creative practice to enhance health, wellbeing and quality of life is dependent upon their availability and accessibility (e.g. appropriate public transport being available) as well as support and assistance for those who may have difficulty participating otherwise (Age UK Index of Wellbeing in Later Life, p10).
Another key ingredient shaping the success of artistic initiatives is how they engage and involve individuals and communities to address specific needs and preferences Be Creative Be Well, p13Oxford Institute of Ageing Report), recognising how the interplay of intersectional factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and religion can affect participation and engagement. For example, Arts Sisterhood UK, a community organisation, is founded upon an intersectional ethos to provide affordable art classes to marginalised societal members, with the aim of improving their personal development, health and providing valuable opportunities to meet others and gain support (Haynes, 2017). Improving availability and access to artistic and creative practices and understanding how these practices can be shaped to individual needs and preferences and the communities in which they are formed and developed, can only help to consolidate their benefit and value to all.

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors


All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry (2017). Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, APPG Inquiry Report 

Arts and Humanities Research Council. (2017). AHRC Interview with Daisy Fancourt 

Age of Creativity. (2018). Age of Creativity Website 

Arts Health: Early Career Research Network. (2018). Arts Health ECRN Website 

Arts on Prescription (2018).@ArtsPrescript Twitter 

Camic, P. M., V. Tischler and C. H. Pearman (2014). "Viewing and making art together: a multi-session art-gallery-based intervention for people with dementia and their carers." Aging Ment Health 18(2): 161-168.

Harper, S. and Hamblin, K. (2010). Oxford Institute of Ageing Report 'This is Living' Good Times: Art for Older People at Dulwich Picture Gallery 

ComRes. (2018). Arts Council England Older People Poll. Poll of older people aged 65+ about arts and culture.

University College London. (2018). Museums on Prescription. UCL Website

Brown, M. (2017). Arts can help recovery from illness and keep people well, report says. The Guardian. Guardian Online Web Link


Privacy Settings