Evidence summary for policy: the role of arts in improving health & wellbeing: report to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
FANCOURT Daisy, WARRAN Katey, AUGHTERSON Henry
This report synthesised the findings from over 3,500 studies on the role of the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan. The reviewed evidence included study designs such as randomized controlled studies, nationally-representative longitudinal cohort studies, communitywide ethnographies, cross-sectional surveys, laboratory experiments, and case studies. The review focuses on how arts engagement can impact on 1) social outcomes, 2) youth development and 3) the prevention of mental and physical illness. It also considers how social prescribing programmes that have used arts interventions can impact on the above three outcomes. The evidence summary assesses the type and quality of evidence available for each outcome. The findings show strong evidence for the following outcomes, suggesting that this evidence can be trusted to guide policy: the use of music to support infant social development; the use of book reading to support child social development; the use of music or reading for speech and language development amongst infants and children; the use of the arts to support aspects of social cohesion; the use of the arts to improve wellbeing (i.e. positive psychological factors) in adults; and the use of the arts to reduce physical decline in older age. In relation to the use of social prescribing (SP), the evidence is promising for wellbeing and social cohesion but weak for physical health and social inequalities, and non-existent for social development, the prevention of mental illness, and cognition. Nevertheless, economic evaluations suggest there may be benefits including returns on investment and social returns on investment from implementing arts-based SP.