A systematic review of the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with (taking part in, performing, viewing) visual arts for adults (“working-age”, 15-64 years) with diagnosed mental health conditions.
1. What are the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with (taking part in, performing, viewing) visual arts for adults (‘working-age’, 15-64 years) with diagnosed mental health conditions?
2.What are the processes by which the subjective wellbeing outcomes are achieved?
Our series of evidence reviews form one programme of work within the What Works for Wellbeing centre. Four systematic reviews aim to examine the subjective wellbeing benefits of different culture and sport practices and how they are distributed between different groups and user communities.
We are still in the process of completing our 3rd systematic review, but preliminary findings suggest that visual arts can have positive wellbeing outcomes for adults with mental health conditions. Published studies from the past 10 years were studied for the review, and their findings synthesised and integrated into an evaluation of the state of knowledge in the field, in terms of the specifics of our research questions. We found that there is limited high-quality evidence, though illuminating case studies from the UK in particular have provided important consistent findings, corroborated by grey literature reporting on interventions and projects. The review includes published findings based on data on/from 163 participants across four countries – Australia, Sweden, the UK, and the USA. A wide variety of wellbeing measures were used in some quantitative, statistical studies. In-depth interviews dominated the most illuminating qualitative studies, giving voice to the experiences of individual subjects. The visual arts practices that featured in the studies included particular forms of painting or drawing, art appreciation with selected art forms, artmaking culminating in an exhibition, and more general creative and craft activities that included visual artefacts such as ceramics or sculpture.
Data from the published quantitative literature indicates that engaging with the visual arts can have the potential to; improve quality of life, reduce symptoms of depression, improve self-reported health and reduce exhaustion. The qualitative literature suggests that sustained engagement in or with the visual arts can create conditions in which self-esteem and confidence are restored in participants. This can offer people a sense of future and re-engagement with others - “bonding” within groups - as several studies report. In addition to the findings from published works, our review of ‘grey literature’ evaluations expands the evidence base. The most compelling evidence illustrates the power of the visual arts in building social capital and self-esteem, reducing mental health stigma, and enhancing wellbeing for people with mental health conditions.
Brunel University, the London School of Economics, Winchester University
Review 1. The wellbeing outcomes of music and singing. This includes 3 reviews with different population groups, inclusive of; healthy adults, adults with diagnosed conditions, and adults with dementia:
Review 2. The wellbeing outcomes of participating in sport and dance for adolescents (15-24 years of age):
Review 3. In progress.
Lead academic: Professor Alan Tomlinson