Psychological benefits of attending the theatre associated with positive affect and well-being for subscribers over age 60
MEEKS Suzanne, VANDENBROUCKE Russell J., SHRYOCK S. Kelly
Objectives: Although late adulthood may be a time of greater well-being, optimal aging still characterizes a minority of older adults. Understanding how individuals achieve well-being across adulthood is important for intervention and social policy. This study focused on how attending live theatre might enhance the well-being of a sample of 53 season ticket holders aged 60 and older. Based on a previously tested conceptual framework, we hypothesized that post-performance reports of social-cognitive experience while at the play would predict post-performance positive affect, which in turn would predict well-being. Method: The sample was a subset of volunteers from a large survey study of theatre ticket purchasers. They completed baseline and two-year follow-up measures of well-being, and questionnaires immediately after attending seven plays across two seasons: measures of social engagement, belonging, flow, positive affect, and their reactions to the plays. Results: This study found that sense of belonging, social engagement, and flow were associated with positive affect after performances, as hypothesized. This study also found that the cumulative positive affect experienced after plays in the two seasons predicted change in well-being between baseline and follow-up. Conclusion: The findings suggest that attending performances is a combined social, cognitive, and affective experience that transcends entertainment. Future research might investigate whether the psychological benefit model assessed in this study will generalize to other leisure activities that create similar engagement. The findings have implications for individuals seeking to promote their own well-being, and, possibly more importantly, for policies that support enriching cultural opportunities, particularly in the arts.