Culture & Wellbeing

At NEA we love to be at the cutting edge of research, new thinking and best practice – and to follow our passions. This has never been more the case than with the Cultural Engagement for Wellbeing project, for the Wellcome Trust, which has grown out of our previous work on social capital, health and wellbeing and cultural value. In 2016 we supported the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, under Prof Stephen Clift, to secure a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Humanities and Social Sciences. We then went on to project manage the resulting 12 month inquiry into the impact of engaging in mainstream cultural activities on people’s health and wellbeing. With a multi-disciplinary team and supported by an expert Advisory Group, the project:

  • reviewed the literature on cultural engagement and subjective wellbeing
  • explored what data can tell us about the links between cultural engagement and health or wellbeing outcomes
  • considered the barriers and enablers to access to culture
  • scoped the potential for recent developments in neuroscience to shed light on the processes at work in our brains when we engage in cultural activity
  • investigated the history and the theoretical underpinnings of the relationship between culture and health & wellbeing, with the aim of helping to refine concepts and definitions.

The research team produced a series of papers for the Project Advisory Group. This included contributions from Susan Oman, Dr Julian Baggini, Dr Luca Ticini and The Audience Agency. A paper on barriers to access to culture by Dr Christina Davies is still in production.

The Seed Award opened up new research questions for us, aimed at accelerating understanding of the biological, psychological and social processes by which arts and cultural engagement impacts on wellbeing inequalities; we want to shed light on what works and what doesn’t work, for whom and in what circumstances.

We’re currently looking at a number of options to pursue these questions. Please check back here for news.

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