Posted on Jan 14, 2020, 3 p.m.
In the ongoing search for the fountain of youth recent research from the University College London published in the journal BMJ suggests that trips to local art museums may help to extend your lifespan.
This study involved a cohort of over 6,000 adults aged 50+ from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and reviewed the associations between varying levels of engagement in the arts as well as mortality rates of the cohort, participants were followed up over a 14 year period.
“While previous studies have shown the association between arts engagement and the prevention and treatment of mental and physical health conditions, including depression, dementia, chronic pain, and frailty, whether arts engagement actually confers survival benefits remains unclear,” the study read. “Some research has proposed that the universality of art and the strong emotional responses it induces are indications of its association with evolutionary adaptations, while other research has questioned whether art is an evolutionary parasite, with no particular evolutionary benefits to our species.”
Those aged 50+ who engage with the art frequently or every few months or more whether by attending concerts, visiting galleries or exhibitions, or by going to the theater or museums were found to have had a 31% lower risk of dying within the follow-up period; and those who engaged in cultural activities infrequently or 1-2 times per year had a 14% lower risk of dying during the follow-up period compared to those who did not engage in the arts.
“These findings support previous statistical analyses and anthropological work suggesting there may be benefits of the arts to individuals as they age,” said the study’s co-author Daisy Fancourt to Reuters.
“It remains possible the association presented here could be the result of unidentified confounding factors, but it is promising that the association is maintained even when controlling for a wide range of socioeconomic, demographic, health, social and behavioral factors,” added Fancourt, an associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College London.
29.8% of the participants died within the follow-up period: men were more likely than women to die as were those who were older, unmarried, or not living with a partner, those who were unemployed, and those with no educational qualifications. 47.5% of those who died never engaged in the arts, with death occurring in 26.6% of those who infrequently engaged in the arts and 18.6% of those who engaged with the arts.
According to Francourt during an interview with CNN participating with the arts can build creativity and help to block stress: "We also thought that a greater sense of purpose could play a role," she said. "If this (study) is added to the larger body of evidence, we are getting an increasingly rich picture on how arts can benefit health and it's not about one single outcome. It can have wide ranging benefits and support healthier lives lived longer."
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