Art in Hospitals Reduces Depression and Pain, Research Finds

The study follows art lessons and trips to museums becoming available as NHS prescription options

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 1615-17, on display at a GP surgery, UK, 2019. Courtesy: National Gallery

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 1615-17, on display at a GP surgery, UK, 2019. Courtesy: National Gallery

A study carried out by CW+, the charity for London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, has suggested that art in hospitals has a positive impact in terms of patients’ mental health, reducing stress, depression and pain.

The research found that more than 80% of 50 women who underwent colposcopy (cervical) examinations said that the art ‘greatly improved their anxiety and experience’. Feelings of depression fell by a third amongst patients undertaking chemotherapy. Clinical staff also found that art helped sooth children’s anxiety.

A recent report by the Art Fund, ‘Calm and Collected’, emphasized the links between art and a healthy lifestyle – one of its findings was that those under 30 are twice as likely to visit an art gallery at least once per month to ‘de-stress’. Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said that the findings ‘clearly confirm that visiting museums more frequently does indeed have a positive effect on one’s overall sense of personal balance and fulfilment.’

Last year a new GBP£1.8 million UK government strategy put new initiative behind doctors prescribing art lessons on the NHS. Don’t miss Chris Sharratt writing on why the links between culture and health are being reconsidered, and how it has come under threat: ‘Paradoxically, just as the social benefits of the arts are being championed, a legal obligation to provide social care services is in turn leading to a reduction in councils’ arts spending.’

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