Center for Arts in Medicine

Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America

Provide direct health benefits

Arts & Culture Provide Direct Health Benefits

Participation in arts and cultural activities is increasingly associated with improved health and well-being, healthier aging, and stronger communities. Many arts- and culture-based strategies provide direct and immediate health benefits, such as: 

  • increased physical activity 
  • stress-reduction 
  • increased social cohesion and reduced loneliness 
  • better coping with chronic conditions 
  • increased happiness and wellbeing 

Participatory dance programs like Dance for PD® offer people – in this case people with Parkinson’s disease - connections that reduce isolation and loneliness, while also providing direct, measurable physical and mental health benefits.

Outcomes associated with providing direct health benefits:

Enhanced immune response

Kuhn D. (2002). The effects of active and passive participation in musical activity on the immune system as measured by salivary immunoglobulin A (SIgA). Journal of Music Therapy, 39(1), 30-39.

Núñez, M. J., Mañá, P., Liñares, D., Riveiro, M. P., Balboa, J., Suárez-Quintanilla, J., Maracchi, M., Méndez, M. R., López, J. M., & Freire-Garabal, M. (2002). Music, immunity and cancer. Life Sciences, 71(9), 1047-1057.

Fancourt, D., Ockelford, A., & Belai, A. (2014). The Psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: A systematic review and a new model. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36, 15-26.

Burrai, F., Hasan, W., Luppi, M., & Micheluzzi, V. (2018). A conceptual framework encompassing the psychoneuroimmunoendocrinological influences of listening to music in patients with heart failure. Holistic Nursing Practice, 32(2), 81–89.

Enhanced coping and emotional regulation

Derman, Y. E., & Deatrick, J. A. (2016). Promotion of well-being during treatment for childhood cancer: a literature review of art interventions as a coping strategy. Cancer Nursing, 39(6), E1-16. 

Pezzin, L. E., Larson, E. R., Lorber, W., McGinley, E. L., & Dillingham, T. R. (2018). Music-instruction intervention for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized pilot study. BMC Psychology, 6(1), 60. 

Rollins, J., & King, E. (2015). Promoting coping for children of hospitalized service members with combat injuries through creative arts engagement. Arts & Health, 7(2), 109-122.

Reduced loneliness and isolation 

Poscia, A., Stojanovic, J., La Milia, D. I., Duplaga, M., Grysztar, M., Moscato, U., Onderc, G., Collamatia, A., Ricciardiad, W., & Magnavitaa, N. (2018). Interventions targeting loneliness and social isolation among the older people: an update systematic review. Experimental Gerontology, 102, 133-44. 

Tymoszuk, U., Perkins, R., Fancourt, D., & Williamon, A. (2019). Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between receptive arts engagement and loneliness among older adults. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Pearce, R., & Lillyman, S. (2015). Reducing social isolation in a rural community through participation in creative arts projects. Nurs Older People, 27(10), 33-8. 


Fancourt, D., & Steptoe, A. (2019). The art of life and death: 14 year follow-up analyses of associations between arts engagement and mortality in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. BMJ, 367.

Kattenstroth, J. C., Kolankowska, I., Kalisch, T., & Dinse, H. R. (2010). Superior sensory, motor, and cognitive performance in elderly individuals with multi-year dancing activities. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2, 31.

Bygren, L. O., Konlaan, B. B., & Johansson, S. E. (1996). Attendance at cultural events, reading books or periodicals, and making music or singing in a choir as determinants for survival: Swedish interview survey of living conditions. BMJ, 313(7072), 1577-1580.

Reduced stress 

de Witte, M., Spruit, A., van Hooren, S., Moonen, X., & Stams, G. J. (2019). Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses. Health psychology review, 1-31.

van Willenswaard, K. C., Lynn, F., McNeill, J., McQueen, K., Dennis, C. L., Lobel, M., & Alderdice, F. (2017). Music interventions to reduce stress and anxiety in pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry, 17(1), 271. 

Finn, S., & Fancourt, D. (2018). The biological impact of listening to music in clinical and nonclinical settings: A systematic review. Progress in Brain Research, 237, 173-200.

Enhanced memory and cognition 

Beard, R. L. (2012). Art therapies and dementia care: A systematic review. Dementia, 11(5), 633-656.

Pedersen, S., Andersen, P. N., Lugo, R. G., Andreassen, M., & Sütterlin, S. (2017). Effects of music on agitation in dementia: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 742.

Sarkamo, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, A., Soinila, S., Mikkonen, M., Autti, T., Silvennoinen, H. M., Erkkilä, J., Laine, M., Peretz, I., & Hietanen, M. (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke. Brain, 131(3), 866-876.

Enhanced self-efficacy 

Fancourt, D., Finn, S., Warran, K., & Wiseman, T. (2019). Group singing in bereavement: effects on mental health, self-efficacy, self-esteem and well-being. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, 1-9. 

McRae, C., Leventhal, D., Westheimer, O., Mastin, T., Utley, J., & Russell, D. (2017). Long-term effects of dance for PD on self-efficacy among persons with Parkinson’s disease. Arts & Health, 1-12.  

Varela, W., Abrami, P. C., & Upitis, R. (2014). Self-regulation and music learning: A systematic review. Psychology of Music, 44(1), 55-74.

Reduced cardiovascular reactivity  

Hardcastle, S. J., McNamara, K., & Tritton, L. (2015). Using visual methods to understand physical activity maintenance following cardiac rehabilitation. PLOS One, 10(9).  

Haiblum-Itskovitch, S., Czamanski-Cohen, J., & Galili, G. (2018). Emotional response and changes in heart rate variability following art-making with three different art materials. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 968.

Enhanced social support 

Fraser, C., & Keating, M. (2014). The effect of a creative art program on self-esteem, hope, perceived social support, and self-efficacy in individuals with multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 46(6), 330-336.     

Greenbaum, C. A., & Javdani, S. (2017). Expressive writing intervention promotes resilience among juvenile justice-involved youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 220-229.

Ings, R., Crane, N., & Cameron, M. (2012). Be Creative Be Well. Arts Council England.

Improved social behaviors 

Fancourt, D., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Effects of creativity on social and behavioral adjustment in 7‐to 11‐year‐old children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1438(1), 30.

Kou, X., Konrath, S., & Goldstein, T. R. (2019). The relationship among different types of arts engagement, empathy, and prosocial behavior. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.

Gutman, S. A., Raphael-Greenfield, E. I., & Rao, A. K. (2012). Effect of a motor-based role-play intervention on the social behaviors of adolescents with high-functioning autism: multiple-baseline single-subject design. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(5), 529-537.

Increased exercise 

Clark, I. N., Taylor, N. F., & Baker, F. (2012). Music interventions and physical activity in older adults: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 44, 710-719.

Burkhardt, J. & Brennan, C. (2012). The effects of recreational dance interventions on the health and well-being of children and young people: A systematic review. Arts & Health, 4(2), 148-161. 

Bowles, L., Curtis, J., Davies, C., Lengerich, A., & Bugajski, A. (2019). The effect of music on mood, motivation, and exercise among patients in a cardiac rehabilitation program: A pilot study. Nursing Forum, 54(3), 340–344.

Adoption of healthier behaviors 

Pleasant, A., Quadros, A., Pereira-Leon, M. & Cabe, J. (2014). A qualitative look at the Arts for Behavior Change Program: Theater for Health. Arts & Health, 7(1), 54-64.  

Cameron, M., Crane, N., Ings, R., & Taylor, K. (2013). Promoting well-being through creativity: How arts and public health can learn from each other. Perspectives in Public Health, 133(1), 52–59.

Barne M. (2017). Can colour stimulate intake in older population groups?. British Journal of Community Nursing, 22(7), S11-S12.

Improved treatment and management of health conditions 

Jensen, A., & Bonde, L. O. (2018). The use of arts interventions for mental health and wellbeing in health settings. Perspectives in Public Health, 138(4), 209-214.

Martin-Saavedra, J. S., Vergara-Mendez, L. D., & Talero-Gutiérrez, C. (2018). Music is an effective intervention for the management of pain: An umbrella review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 32, 103-114.

McRae, C., Leventhal, D., Westheimer, O., Mastin, T., Utley, J., & Russell, D. (2018). Long-term effects of Dance for PD® on self-efficacy among persons with Parkinson’s disease. Arts & Health, 10(1), 85-96.

Mandel, S. E., Davis, B. A., & Secic, M. (2019). Patient satisfaction and benefits of music therapy services to manage stress and pain in the hospital emergency department. Journal of Music Therapy, 56(2), 149-173.

Wellness/Prevention (reduced burden on primary and emergency care systems, less healthcare seeking) 

Kellezi, B., Wakefield, J. R. H., Stevenson, C., McNamara, N., Mair, E., Bowe, M., Wilson, I., & Halder, M. M. (2019). The social cure of social prescribing: a mixed-methods study on the benefits of social connectedness on quality and effectiveness of care provision. BMJ Open, 9(11).

Burkhardt, J. & Brennan, C. (2012). The effects of recreational dance interventions on the health and well-being of children and young people: A systematic review. Arts & Health, 4(2), 148-161. 

Fancourt, D., & Finn, S. (2019). What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?A scoping review (2019). World Health Organization (WHO).

Wellbeing and thriving 

Curtis, A., Gibson, L., O'Brien, M., & Roe, B. (2018). Systematic review of the impact of arts for health activities on health, wellbeing and quality of life of older people living in care homes. Dementia, 17(6), 645–669.

Mansfield, L., Kay, T., Meads, C., Grigsby-Duffy, L., Lane, J., John, A., Daykin, N., Dolan, P., Testoni, S., Julier, G., Payne, A., Tomlinson, A., & Victor, C. (2018). Sport and dance interventions for healthy young people (15–24 years) to promote subjective well-being: a systematic review. BMJ Open, 8(7), 1-16.  

Jensen, A., & Bonde, L. O. (2018). The use of arts interventions for mental health and wellbeing in health settings. Perspectives in Public Health, 138(4), 209-214.

Ennis, G. M., & Tonkin, J. (2018). ‘It’s like exercise for your soul’: how participation in youth arts activities contributes to young people’s wellbeing. Journal of Youth Studies, 21(3), 340-359.  

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Cris Sanhueza and the UF Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab for their support in curating the articles within this online tool.

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