Arts for Mental Health Research & Resources

MAC and Mass Culture are pleased to present the following articles and resources that demonstrate the benefits of the arts on mental health and physical well-being. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of resources, we hope it is a thorough collection that can be used by the community to both advocate for arts for mental health programs and as a springboard to further research.

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About the Research

In 2017, researching the relatively low valuation of artists and their contributions to society, we at Mississauga Arts Council looked into the remarkable economic contributions of the arts (Hill Strategies and others), we were inspired by the enormous popular support for the arts in Ontario, as evidenced in an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for the Ontario government in 2017. But obviously economic value and popular appeal haven’t been enough, we had to find a better story for professional artists, emphasizing their value as a competitive advantage in healthcare cost reduction.

Here and there, we gathered spot news reports of beneficial impacts of – a dance program for neuromuscular illnesses, or painting for stroke recovery, or music programs offering important measurable benefits for just about anything. Encouraging good news stories, noting reduced stress, depression, anxiety, and suicides from participation in creative experiences as participants or as attendees; are well known, in a few circles and understood instinctively by the public, yet with these important accomplishments, artists are still barely sustaining themselves as the best educated poor people in Canada.

We turned to other countries, Denmark for its back to work enabling program using arts experiences and especially we made note of the Creative Inquiry Report to Britain’s Parliament in July 2017. The startling healthcare benefits cited, guided our approach to our Arts for Mental Health Conference.

Key Resources

Featured Resources:

Treating symptoms of depression in people with dementia: Are non-drug strategies a promising option? – McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, McMaster University (2021)

2020 Highlights and Results – Windsor Essex Compassion Community Care (2020)

Qualitative findings from a systematic review: Visual arts engagement for adults with mental health conditions – University of Brighton (2020)

ARTS ON PRESCRIPTION: Improving health and wellbeing through arts participation – Alliance for Healthier Communities (2019)

SOCIAL PRESCRIBING IN ONTARIO: Progress Report – Alliance for Healthier Communities (2019)

Creating Health Communities Through Cross-Sector Collaboration White Paper – University Center for Arts in Medicine & ArtPlace America (2019)

‘Artlift’ arts-on-referral intervention in UK primary care: updated findings from an ongoing observational study – European Journal of Public Health (2018)

Identification with arts-based groups improves mental wellbeing in adults with chronic mental health conditions – The University of Queensland

Visual Art and Mental Health: A systematic review of the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with visual arts for adults (“working-age”, 15-64 years) with diagnosed mental health conditions – What Works Centre for Wellbeing (2018)

The art of being healthy: a qualitative study to develop a thematic framework for understanding the relationship between health and the arts – University of Western Australia (2014)

The Value of Arts & Culture, Peoples & Society – Arts Council England (2014)

Be Creative Be Well; Arts, wellbeing and local communities (An evaluation) – Arts Council England (2007-2011)

Basic Toolkit Handbook: Building and Sustaining Arts in Healthcare Programs – Society for the Arts in Healthcare (2009)

Research Highlights (Video Summaries):

In March 2017, Nanos Research released their findings from a random telephone survey of over 1000 adult Ontarians on the relationship they have with arts and culture and how it affects their quality of life. Highlights from this research are presented here to show the astounding results of how valuable the arts are to Ontarians, and that the arts make a significant impact to improve mental health and well-being for themselves, their children, and their communities.

In July 2017, the British All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts Health and Well-Being released, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. This report demonstrates the powerful effects creative experiences have on medical patients, and how arts of all kinds can be used as not only a treatment option for physical illness, but also mental illness. The arts, arts therapy, and creative experiences are an incredibly viable resource in health care.

Datathon Resources:

Resource: Canadians’ Arts Participation, Health, and Well-Being SIA report 53 (Hill Strategies Research Inc.)

The report uses statistical modelling via regression analysis to explore connections between a cultural participation index and four aspects of health and well-being.

Resource: National Arts and Culture Impact Survey (NACIS)

A national survey conducted during the pandemic on short-term economic and psychological fall-out for arts workers, impact of government interventions, resourcefulness and creativity, and the sustaina…

Resource: Treating symptoms of depression in people with dementia: Are non-drug strategies a promising option? (McMaster University)

Art therapy and reminiscing effective treatments for elderly with depressive disorders.

Resource: Arts and Health Promotion: Tools and Bridges for Practice, Research, and Social Transformation (Springer)

Synthesizes theory on health promotion and applied arts for a wide range of scholars, practitioners, and educators.

Resource: Ontario Expanding Mental Health and Addictions Supports for Children and Youth in Northwestern Ontario (Ontario News Room)

The Ontario government is providing more than $1 million in additional annual funding specifically targeted at improving access to core and specialized mental health and addictions services for childr…

Resource: Ontario Adding Mental Health Workers to OPP Communications Centres (Ontario News Room)

The Ontario government is investing $8.4 million over three years in a new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Crisis Call Diversion Program. This program will help police offer the most appropriate respo…

Resource: The Art of Wellness (WriteWell)

This Art of Wellness documentary spotlights the important role of the arts and the positive impact that participating in arts-based programming has on our well-being, supporting people with high stres…

Resource: Let’s get visual! The “art” of improving cognitive ability and mental well-being (McMaster University)

Dementia and mental well-being: art based therapy. Globally by 2050, estimated 150 million people with dementia.

Resource: The Windsor Essex Compassion Care Community: 2020 Highlights and Results (The Windsor Essex Compassion Care Community)

“The Importance of Being Connected” program was found to increase awareness of the negative effects of social isolation and promote intentional and persistent reaching out to other community members i…

Resource: Mental Health Support Webinar (University of Ottawa)

Susan Farrell: Defining The Royal, Key COVID-19 Effects Survey, Next steps, Responses from The Royal, Important lessons, Model of Interdisciplinary Care, Biggest Findings from C-Prompt, Key Considerat…

Resource: Arts engagement supports social connectedness in adulthood: findings from the HEartS Survey (BMC Public Health)

Evidence-based research on arts and feelings of social connectedness.

Resource: Toolkits – TACLA (The Asian Canadian Living Archive)

A page detailing The Asian Canadian Living Archive (TACLA) and its ongoing efforts to create inclusive toolkits and documents. Currently shares an Artist Agreement.

Resource: CultureCase: A resource for the cultural sector (Kings College London)

CultureCase comprises a vast array of carefully selected academic research from universities and scholars around the world that can add value to the work of the cultural sector.

Resource: Qualitative findings from a systematic review: Visual arts engagement for adults with mental health conditions (University of Brighton)

Evidence-based research on arts and mental health.

Resource: Opera – Civic Impact Framework (The Association for Opera in Canada)

A civic impact framework that would allow its member companies across Canada to better understand and articulate the difference that these activities are making in the lives of individuals and in thei…

Resource: Arts, Health and Wellbeing: The Need for Robust Appraisal of Research in the Field (Colouring in Culture)

Much-needed (though understandably contentious) debate needed about the robustness/rigour of some arts and health research. Dr Stephen Clift is a veteran of the field here in the UK who is willing to …

Resource: Perspectives of high needs families on visiting the museum: A pilot study exploring social prescribing

One-page synopsis and video

Resource: The Benefits of Writing on Mental Health (Mindless Doodle)

Interview discussion regarding the benefits of having a writing practise can have on our mental health and wellbeing.

Resource: FDA Approves Prescription Video Game for ADHD (Very Well Mind)

The FDA has officially granted marketing authorization to the first game-based therapeutic.

Resource: Meditative Live Coding and Musicological Hindrances (Matthew Tift)

But if live coding is to become a meditative experience that cultivates mindfulness, then we can start by recognizing how our ideas about musical works, music, and interpretation affect our experience…

Resource: SOCIAL PRESCRIBING IN ONTARIO – Progress Report (Alliance for Healthier Communities)

Overview of social prescribing projects in 11 Ontario Community Health Centres

Resource: ARTS ON PRESCRIPTION: Improving health and wellbeing through arts participation (Alliance for Healthier Communities)

Slides from a webinar outlining several projects in the Toronto area linking culture and wellbeing.

Resource: Creating Health Communities Through Cross-Sector Collaboration White Paper (University Center for Arts in Medicine & ArtPlace America)

This paper presents a case for how collaboration among the public health, arts and culture, and community development sectors is critical to addressing the issues and conditions that limit health in A…

Resource: Arts & Health at Duke (Duke University)

Compiled articles and resources from Arts & Health at Duke University.

Resource: Health Commons Fact Sheet: Impact of Loneliness & Isolation (Health Commons Solution Lab)

A two page infographic outlining the economic and health implications of loneliness and isolation on people as well as those most at risk to suffer.

Resource: What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review – Health Evidence Network synthesis report 67 (World Health Organization)

This report used a scoping review methodology to map the global academic literature in English and Russian from January 2000 to May 2019. Over 900 publications were identified, of which there were ove…

Resource: Seniors & Suicide – Starting the Conversation with the AfterWhys Play (Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin)

A video related to the play AfterWhys, which highlights the risk factors for seniors as it relates to suicide and stresses the importance of reaching out for help and talking about the topic.

Resource: ‘Artlift’ arts-on-referral intervention in UK primary care: updated findings from an ongoing observational study (European Journal of Public Health)

Arts for health interventions are an accepted option for medical management of mental wellbeing in health care. Updated findings are presented from a prospective longitudinal follow-up (observational)…

Resource: The MARCH Network (University College London)

The MARCH Network is one of 8 national networks funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the 2018 Cross-Council Mental Health Plus call to further research into mental health.

Resource: Visual Art and Mental Health: A systematic review… (What Works Centre for Wellbeing)

This systematic review aimed to address the primary question: What are the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with visual arts for ‘working-age’ adults (15-64 years) with dia…

Resource: Identification with arts-based groups improves mental wellbeing in adults with chronic mental health conditions (The University of Queensland)

A social identity theoretical approach was applied to explore how participation in the arts may improve mental health in a longitudinal study.

Resource: Montreal museum partners with doctors to ‘prescribe’ art (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)

A doctors’ organisation and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) are partnering to allow physicians to write prescriptions for free museum visits.

Resource: It Is Not Illness But Isolation That Is The Taproot of Suicide (100Stone Project)

An event in Alaska where community allies gathered to manifest a sculpture installation, shouldering stories of mental illness and resilience.

Resource: Put on Your Dancing Shoes to Stay Nimble as You Age (Health Central)

Researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology in Japan found dance best of 16 forms of exercise to lower disability risk.

Resource: Impressions of the impact of the arts on quality of life and well-being in Ontario (Nanos/Ontario Arts Council)

Executive Summary from Nanos for the Ontario Arts Council on the impact of the arts on the day-to-day wellbeing of Ontarians.

Resource: The Creative Health: Arts for Mental Health & Well-Being (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health & Well-being)

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health & Well-being: This resource uncovers 9 key areas to demonstrate how the art impact our aid recovery / support longer lives better lived, to help with chal…

Resource: Culture Track (Business / Arts)

Culture Track: Canada is a study of the attitudes and behaviours of Canadian cultural consumers.

Resource: The Arts & Individual Well-Being in Canada (Hill Strategies)

Hill Strategies Report: The data in the report show that there is a strong connection between 18 cultural activities and eight indicators of health and well-being.

Resource: Singing for Better Breathing: Findings from the Lambeth & Southwark Singing & COPD Project

Over the last eight years there has been a growth of interest in the potential value of participation in singing groups for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CODP) and other respirato…

Resource: Art, Health, and Well-Being in America (National Organization for Arts in Mental Health)

A white paper showing how arts interventions can contribute to positive clinical, experiential, and holistic outcomes.

Resource: Arts in Medicine Literature Review (Grantmakers in the Arts)

A literature review on arts in medicine. Illuminates the role artists and arts organizations can play in healthcare settings.

Resource: Museum-based programs for socially isolated older adults: Understanding what works (Museums on Prescription)

This paper presents research findings that help to understand how museum programs created opportunities to enhance wellbeing and health, and changed experiences of social isolation in older adults.

Resource: Arts Participation & Canadians’ Health (Infographic)

The Ontario government is providing more than $1 million in additional annual funding specifically targeted at improving access to core and specialized mental health and addictions services for childr…

Resource: Arts-Based Programs and Arts Therapies for At-Risk, Justice-Involved, and Traumatized Youths (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

This review explores recent research on arts-based programs and arts therapies.The review focuses on the following three populations: 1) at-risk youths, 2) justice-involved youths, and 3) traumatized …

Resource: Health Stories (Women’s College Hospital, Sick Kids)

Using digital storytelling to enhance patient care and medical/health professional education.

Resource: The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation (National Endowment for the Arts)

This report is a literature review and gap-analysis of recent research about the arts’ relationship to social-emotional benefits in early childhood.

Resource: Impact of fine arts participation on self-determination and locus of control among persons with developmental disabilities.(Matheny School and Hospital)

This preliminary study sought evidence of the degree to which self-determination and locus of control might be valuable constructs to study in relation to fine arts participation in adults with comple…

Resource: The art of being healthy: a qualitative study to develop a thematic framework for understanding the relationship between health and the arts (University of Western Australia)

Guided by the biopsychosocial model of health and theories of social epidemiology, the aim of this study was to develop a framework pertaining to the relationship between arts engagement and populatio…

Resource: Joining the Spectrum: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry Into Theatre as an Intervention for Autism Diagnosed Teens (National Endowment for the Arts)

“Joining the Spectrum”: An Interdisciplinary Research Inquiry into Theatre as Intervention for Youth with the Autism Diagnosis (ASD) explores the transformative potential of theatre as a liminal art f…

Resource: Musical improvisation and health: a review (Psychology of Well-Being )

There is an expanding field of research into how making or listening to music can improve wellbeing. As a spontaneous, social, creative nonverbal process unfolding in real time, musical improvisation …

Resource: The Value of Arts & Culture, Peoples & Society (Arts Council England)

This evidence review covers he value of arts & culture within four major areas: economy, health & well-being, society & education.

Resource: Using New Metrics to Assess the Role of the Arts in Well-Being (Office of Research & Analysis or the National Endowment for the Arts)

There is implicit consensus that the arts play a positive role in most societies, with good reason. They can have positive social externalities by generating events for social gatherings and creative…

Resource: Music: a better alternative than pain? (University Hospital of South Manchester)

Information about the effectiveness of music from randomised controlled trials will only ever partially answer questions about whether individual patients should try it. Meanwhile the safety, freedom …

Resource: Art & Wellness: The Importance of Arts for Aboriginal Peoples’ Health & Healing (National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health)

How art & culture practices can contribute to the health & healing processes of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Resource: Making and gifting belonging: creative arts and people with learning disabilities. (School of the Environment, University of Dundee)

Through the doing of creative arts, people with learning disabilities can transcend the exclusionary landscape (albeit temporarily) and begin to reimagine and transform understandings of learning disa…

Resource: The arts, health and seniors project: A Three Year Exploration of the Relationship between Arts and Health

From 2006-2009, an initiative was developed in Vancouver and North Vancouver to provide vulnerable and marginalized seniors with community-engaged arts programming and to demonstrate the role that pro…

Resource: Be Creative Be Well; Arts, wellbeing and local communities: An evaluation (National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health)

This is an important report that describes and evaluates the Be Creative Be Well project and the key role it has played within the integrated, community-led Well London programme.

Resource: Impacts of community events and festivals on rural places (Government of Alberta)

This research provides a literature-review-based overview of community events and festivals. This report also considers the event categories, their importance and the associated impacts on rural commu…

Resource: National Arts & Youth Demonstration Project (McGill University)

The objective of the present study is to examine the effectiveness of after-school arts programs in increasing the participation of visible minority and Aboriginal youth in life-enriching programs and…

Resource: Choral singing and psychological wellbeing (Journal of Applied Arts and Health)

A recent systematic review (Clift, Hancox, Staricoff & Whitmore 2008) identified 35 research reports addressing connections between singing, wellbeing and health in non-clinical samples and contexts, …

Resource: Basic Toolkit Handbook: Building and Sustaining Arts in Healthcare Programs (Society for the Arts in Healthcare)

This Handbook reflects the complex and changing needs of our growing field. It serves as a guide through the Society for the Arts in Healthcare’s full-day workshop.

Resource: Do Community Arts Programs Promote Positive Youth Development? (University of Windsor)

This article reports on a multi-method evaluation of the Tampa Arts and Youth Demonstration Project (TAYDP) conducted over two years in three sites in Hillsborough County in Tampa, Florida.

Resource: Learning, Arts, and the Brain (The Dana Foundation)

The Dana consortium findings define/evaluate causal relationships between arts training and the brain’s ability to learn in other cognitive domains.

Resource: The arts, health and wellbeing (Arts Council England)

This framework outlines Arts Council England’s first formal national strategy for arts and health, complementing the wide range of our current polices and strategies.

Resource: Social engagement and health outcomes among older people: introduction to a special section (University of Sheffield)

This article provides a detailed overview of pre-2005 studies of social engagement and health among older adults.