Benefits of Arts in Health Care

There are many examples of the benefits of arts in health and social care. 

check organisations such as:

National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing 

SCIE – arts related prevention and wellbeing

The following are some of the referenced evidence for creative or arts based approaches to health and wellbeing.  SVQ Health and Social Care students have often used these notes or our courses to support a wide range of underpinning knowledge e.g. for promoting effective communication; reflective practice; promote individual’s self-esteem and sense of identity; etc. 

2007, the Department of Health’s Review of Arts and Health Working Group, examined the role the arts can play in health benefits. Its key findings were:

  • arts and health are, and should be firmly recognised as being, integral to health, healthcare provision and healthcare environments, including supporting staff
  • arts and health initiatives are delivering real and measurable benefits across a wide range of priority areas for health, and can enable the Department and NHS to contribute to key wider Government initiatives
  • there is a wealth of good practice and a substantial evidence base
  • the Department of Health has an important leadership role to play in creating an environment in which arts and health can prosper by promoting, developing and supporting arts and health

Logsdon RG, McCurry SM, Teri L. Evidence-Based Interventions to Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Dementia. Alzheimer’s care today. 2007;8(4):309-318.

Factors that influence Quality of Life (QOL) have been remarkably consistent. For persons with dementia reporting about their own QOL, these factors include mood, engagement in pleasant activities, and the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). For family caregivers reporting about QOL of their care recipient, factors include mood, engagement in pleasant activities, physical functioning, and cognitive functioning. The overlap is obvious: positive mood and engagement in pleasant activities are essential features of good QOL for individuals with dementia….

Music Therapy: Some great information here about the benefits of music by Alex Frank about the benefits of music 

In 2011, the British Medical Association published a paper on ‘The psychological and social needs of patients’

which found that:

Creating a therapeutic healthcare environment extends beyond the elimination of boredom. Arts and humanities programmes have been shown to have a positive effect on inpatients. The measured improvements include:

  • inducing positive physiological and psychological changes in clinical outcomes
  • reducing drug consumption
  • shortening length of hospital stay
  • promoting better doctor-patient relationships
  • improving mental healthcare

Joel Almeida, UK, December 2012

Outcomes in a music & arts based social support and self-help group for health and wellbeing

This is a service evaluation report of a NICE-based, facilitated weekly social support group for selfhelp. NICE is the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. The facilitation uses music, creative writing, drama, visual and other arts based on self-help themes relevant to users. Outcomes Self-monitoring (GAD7 and PHQ9 forms) is carried out by users, as recommended by NICE quality standards.

‘The use of music and the arts seems to build bridges of trust and inclusion with hard-to-reach groups…. and disabled people. Commissioners could improve wellbeing outcomes, reduce inequalities in benefits from the health service, …. through investing in this evidence- based approach. The cost …is likely to be lower than for most health interventions.’

SCIE Social Care Institute for Excellence  Research Findings 2004

People with dementia lack the opportunity to talk and express their feelings about the quality of their own life  and services they receive. It is vital that people with dementia are consulted on both issues. Communication difficulties are distressing and frustrating for the person with dementia themselves and represents one of the major problems for family carers and care home staff examples are the use of memory aids, group meals, the mirror as a therapeutic tool, music therapy, singing by carers, dance and movement. Other studies have assessed the effectiveness of interventions such as communication training for family carers  and care home staff, a planned walking/talking programme, and communication techniques for later-stage dementia. It is essential to remember that it is a human right and a basic need to communicate with others. Be aware of your own interactions with people who have dementia and be positive and flexible in your approach. Realise that it is possible to communicate with people at all stages of dementia and develop skills and techniques to do this.

Rosalia Staricoff and Stephen Clift –  the review of arts and health research conducted by Rosalia Staricoff for Arts Council England in 2004.

Staticoff continued: Over one thousand references were identified, and one hundred and three were selected for inclusion in this review. There is strong evidence of the effect of music interventions on psychological and physiological outcomes of patients in healthcare environments. This positive contribution is described for a number of different areas within the healthcare setting, but also discusses studies which found controversial* or unclear results. The findings of this review show that the contribution of music to healthcare is of a great importance in creating a humanized environment, decreasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression, reducing drugs consumption, and shortening length of stay in hospital.

* there is some controversy around people being left with headphones on for long periods, or listening to the same music, or having headphones put on them without warning (invasive). But if there are proper person-centred procedures in place the benefits are high.

Music in cancer care  2016 update on Cochrane review 2011 Bradt J, Dileo C, Magill L, Teague A

We conclude that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, fatigue and quality of life (QoL) in people with cancer. Furthermore, music may have a small positive effect on heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Reduction of anxiety, fatigue and pain are important outcomes for people with cancer, as they have an impact on health and overall QoL. Therefore, we recommend considering the inclusion of music therapy and music medicine interventions in psychosocial cancer care.

Art and health have been at the center of human interest from the beginning of recorded history. Despite that fact, and despite the invested effort and growth of knowledge and understanding in each arena, it is interesting that we often still find ourselves struggling with the “fundamentals” of art and health and their meaning in society…..

Despite methodological and other limitations, the studies included in our review appear to indicate that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances. It is not unreasonable to assume that future studies involving better methodology and more consistent assessment of outcomes will demonstrate the ability of creative engagement to improve psychological and physical well-being and quality of life. As can be seen from our analysis, it is likely that creative engagement contributes to many aspects of physiological and psychological conditions typically associated with improved health status.

Use of the arts in healing does not contradict the medical view in bringing emotional, somatic, artistic, and spiritual dimensions to learning. Rather, it complements the biomedical view by focusing on not only sickness and symptoms themselves but the holistic nature of the person.103 When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to “create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making.”104(p53) Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing. The more we understand the relationship between creative expression and healing, the more we will discover the healing power of the arts.

Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health. 2010;100(2):254-263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497.

 In summary the artistic process enables:

  •  a point of symbolisation and communication between those who engage with the artwork
  •  articulation of ‘ inner’ individual experience with a shared culture
  •  alternation between embeddedness and critical distance which supports the

thinking needed to conceive of change

  •  the creative illusion needed to see how things can be different
  •  the quality of attention needed to sustain emergence, ambiguity and complexity
  •  the development of new visual and performative languages needed to

experience and represent the world from a different point of view

Funded by Arts Council England North West, The Gulbenkian Foundation, Northern Rock Foundation

 Perkins R. Evidence-based practice interventions for managing behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in nursing home residents. Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2012;20(12):20-24.

Behavioral problems are common in long-term care (LTC) patients with dementia and pose a significant burden on staff, affect caregiver well-being, and impact patients’ quality of life. Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) is an umbrella term defined by the International Psychogeriatric Association as the “symptoms of disturbed perception, thought content, mood or behavior that frequently occur in patients with dementia.”1 In the nursing home population, as many as 67% to 78% of patients have dementia and 76% of them display BPSD.2 Behavioral symptoms are usually identified on the basis of observation; these can include yelling out, pacing, wandering, resisting care, overdressing (dressing in too many layers of clothing), disrobing in inappropriate areas, sleep disturbances, inappropriate sexual behaviors, hitting, and scratching.1,2 Psychological symptoms, which are usually assessed on the basis of interviews with patients and their relatives or caregivers, may include depression, psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions.1,2 A variety of labels have been used to describe patients with BPSD, such as agitated, aggressive, and disruptive.2

If left untreated, BPSD can contribute to premature institutionalization, an increased cost of care, heightened stress to nursing staff and caregivers, and decreased quality of life for the patient.

There is a vast amount of information about the benefits of arts for improved health and wellbeing.


Click here for Evidence-Based information about the benefits of arts in health care.

Click here for information about Creativity In Care’s Positive Dementia Care 2-day course

Click here to leave your details if interested in a new on-line membership programme about positive and creative dementia care in response to requests regards dealing with a variety of topics including ethical, situational, person-focused, creative ideas and sharing best practice.

Information coming soon about the course from the book Puppetry In Dementia Care

Comments are closed.