By Sophia Handaka
The CoMuseum 2022 focused on health and wellbeing at a time where a plethora of news, reports, policy discussions and related actions from around the world have been revealing that the relationship of culture and health is becoming valued and its impact mainstreamed. This is not just a trend. The focus on health, healing, therapy through cultural and creative outlets for noncommunicable diseases and for neurological disorders, arises, and for sure has been accelerated, as a post-covid implication. Already the first year of the pandemic, World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that both anxiety and depressive disorders increased by more than 25%. Related challenges keep policymakers busy in Europe: a growing mental health crisis and the need for health prevention, for youth support and an aging population as well as the direct association of all the above with patterns of inequality; the challenged is in fact formally expressed by the EU Commission that has pledged to focus on youth and on mental health in 2023.
This “predicament” is here to stay and presents a great opportunity to highlight and explore the potential of culture for health and wellbeing. Culture is a driver for health, for subjective and community wellbeing, for social inclusion and for bonding and it has proven to be an excellent a post-covid remedy – for most of us a “during covid” remedy too.
It is now time to mainstream this understanding and explore deeper how arts and cultural interventions can provide a powerful, cost-effective, complementary, and human-centred tool, to quote the recent statements of Culture Action Europe. In November 2022, the CultureForHealth Report was launched by CAE (the association), showcasing the findings of over 300 scientific studies that show art and culture’s contribution to health and wellbeing, through evidence, impacts, challenges and policy recommendations for Europe; this is an attempt to trigger true policy change as they say that mixes (in a pot) health, cultural and social policies, in order to become “Healthier together” as their motto reveals.
According to the report, active and receptive participation in the arts and creativity has direct effects on our health and wellbeing: Singing can help reduce depression and respiratory maladies; dance helps with social engagement and in physical functioning; reading and writing helps finding meaning and reduce risk behaviors; photography and filmmaking can work proactively by enhancing self-reflection, self-expression and self-confidence. Community activities like theatres and choirs reduce feelings of loneliness and depression; architecture, and design in public spaces, like schools, enables social interaction. Cities with rich cultural strategies and infrastructure are able to provide better wellbeing. Places that are green, active and participative host more happy inhabitants, who feel safe and included. And of course, to focus back to our subject, visits to museums and cultural spaces have a great potential for promoting wellbeing and social inclusion.
All the above are not replacements to medical disorders, but can act as complementary, preventive, and expansive ways to help people become happier and healthier. There is a direct connection from cultural intervention to health and wellbeing to social stability and economic prosperity. Mainstreaming and supporting culture as a driver for health and wellbeing, is an investment (financial and social), not a cost. And it will pay off in the future.
More info: thecomuseum.org