Study reveals the art of aging well

older person painting

The gift of art could make the perfect Christmas present for older friends and relatives, after new research by The University of Western Australia and Busselton Health Study linked better physical health and mental well-being in older Australians with taking part in the arts for enjoyment.

Lead author of the article published in Frontiers in Public Health, Dr. Christina Davies, said the study found older adults who engaged in any recreational arts activities during the 12-month study experienced significantly better mental and physical health outcomes than those who didn’t participate.

“Whether you like listening to music, reading, coloring, singing, dancing or attending concerts, the arts can provide a range of health enhancing opportunities,” Dr. Davies said. “People don’t need to be good at art for the arts to be good for them. It’s about having a go and taking part in the arts activities and events that make you feel good.”

This study is a collaboration between UWA’s Good Arts Good Mental Health Project (GAGMH) and the Busselton Population Medical Research Institute’s Busselton Healthy Aging Study (BHAS).

The BHAS began in 2010 and involves more than 5,000 “baby boomers” born from 1946 to 1964.

Busselton Health Study Center Director, Dr. Michael Hunter said about 85% of the study cohort took part in the arts during the past 12 months including attending events, making art, learning about art, or spending time as a member or volunteer at an arts organization.

“Like the positive health benefits derived from physical activity, our study suggests that programs that encourage participation in recreational arts activities may be a useful population-based approach to healthy aging,” Dr. Hunter said.

Further research plans to look at the “arts dose”—the optimal length of time older adults should engage in the arts to see a positive impact on physical and mental health. The arts dose for mental well-being has been calculated as two hours a week for the general population.

More information:
Christina R. Davies et al, The art of aging well: a study of the relationship between recreational arts engagement, general health and mental wellbeing in cohort of Australian older adults, Frontiers in Public Health (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1288760

Journal information:
Frontiers in Public Health

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