Where were you last weekend? Perhaps you were in line for the next big thing at your local gallery, or at the cinema for the new Woody Allen film. Maybe you were just lying on the sofa in your onesie, making your way through the Booker Prize shortlist. However you got your cultural kicks, we have good news: they not only give you an immediate boost, but can also have long-term benefits, positively affecting physical and mental health and happiness.
According to new research from the Scottish government, participation in culture is independently and significantly associated with good health and high life satisfaction. The study of almost 10,000 people found that those who had taken part in a cultural activity in the last 12 months were 30% more likely to report high life satisfaction, and 38% more likely to be in good health than those who hadn’t. That’s regardless of other factors such as age, economic status or education.
Those who got out of the house to attend cultural places or events – libraries, theatres or galleries for example – were over one and a half times more likely to be happy with their lives. Dance is also a happiness booster, dance spectators were found to be more than twice as likely as non-attendees to be satisfied with their lives. The general message is start getting involved.
Sadly, watching three episodes of Breaking Bad back-to-back just doesn’t have the same health benefits.
The correlation between cultural activity and happiness comes about because when people attend the theatre or a gig, they’re doing it for themselves, she says. There’s something self-indulgent and therefore satisfying about it. Women especially run around doing lots of things for other people and often don’t take time to do things just for themselves.
But that doesn’t explain why watching three episodes of Breaking Bad back-to-back and eating a family-sized bar of Dairy Milk doesn’t bestow the same benefit. Attending museums, galleries, performances, and exhibitions offers people deeply fulfilling experiences. Some regard these cultural experiences as the oxygen of their lives and feel they can’t live without it.
Let's face it, we seek out arts and culture for four reasons: social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Within these four broad motivations there are factors such as self-identity, community belonging, shared experiences, inspiration and nostalgia – we have identified about twenty of these individual motives.
Whatever your motivation, one thing’s certain - Fleetwood Mac or The Royal Shakespeare Company might be a one nightonly experience, but the buzz could last a lot longer.