Access to culture is linked to health & happiness

Posted on 4 September 2013

I’ve just spent a few days at the Edinburgh Festival – taking in a few fringe shows, a dance/film piece from Korea courtesy of the Edinburgh International Festival, and an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci drawings at Holyrood House. Speaking for myself I know full well that participating in culture makes me feel good. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? it’s just a feeling, isn’t it?

So it is very good to read in both The Scotsman and Arts Professional, that new research based on data from the Scottish Household Survey 2011 positively reveals links between culture, health & happiness. That’s data from 10,000 respondents.

“Those who had attended a cultural place or event in the previous 12 months were almost 60% more likely to report good health compared to those who had not, and theatre-goers were almost 25% more likely to report good health. Participation in a creative or cultural activity shows similar benefits: those who had done this were 38% more likely to report good health compared to those who did not, but that figure rises to 62% for those who participate in dance. Those who read for pleasure were also 33% more likely to report good health.”

We have evidence that the 0.05% of government spending that comes to Arts and Culture not only secures the quality infrastructure that feeds the whole country, but also makes immediate economic sense – £1 public funding for the Arts & Culture generates £4 for the economy. Now this report brings evidence of the indirect economic benefit – after all a happier, healthier population is more likely to be more motivated and productive, and less likely to need public services such as health care.

So on economic grounds, given that access to Arts & Culture is proven to contribute very positively to health and happiness, it would be sensible to maintain affordable access to Arts & Culture, throughout the country. Wouldn’t it? Not to mention the obvious social, community and cultural benefits shared by places throughout the land that currently have affordable access to all sorts of Arts & Culture. The 0.05% of government funding does that. We need to keep it.

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