Research and Clinical Studies

The 2007 Department of Health and Arts Council England publication, 'A Prospectus for Arts and Health' asserted that the arts have an important part to play in improving health and wellbeing.

Scientific evidence to back up this assertion is growing rapidly. A number of clinicians and university professors are producing valuable research papers; we have highlighted some of the most compelling reports below.

Studies linking art to better health and wellbeing

Professor Samir Zeki is a prominent professor at the Institute of Neuroesthetics at University College London. He recently demonstrated that looking at art stimulates the brain in a way that makes people feel good.

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Researchers in Norway have studied the association of cultural activities with health, anxiety and depression. The results, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, support the hypotheses on the effect of cultural activities in health promotion.

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Study at the Bedminster Practice

The Bedminster Practice in Bristol moved premises in 2006 from a converted Victorian house to a new build. The design and the environment had been carefully thought through. As part of the process, the practice commissioned artworks and borrowed artworks from our loan collection.

The effect of the physical environment of the new facility on patients and staff was studied and the findings were published in 2008 in the British Journal of General Practice. The study shows that an enhanced environment is associated with improvements in patients' perception of patient–doctor communication, reduction in anxiety, and increases in patient and staff satisfaction.

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The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital study

In 2004, Dr Rosalia Staricoff published ‘A Study of the Effects of Visual and Performing Arts in Healthcare for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’ as a result of a three-year research project. The methodology used enabled Dr Staricoff to assess three separate groups – patients, staff and visitors – and to evaluate links between arts and health, including the role of the visual arts in the healing process.

The clinical study concluded that placing original artworks within the healthcare environment had the following benefits:

  • Reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression
  • Reduction in patients' length of stay within the hospital
  • Reduction in the use of some medications
  • Increase in staff morale

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Studies by Professor Roger Ulrich

Professor Roger Ulrich, a Professor of Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M University (TAMU), is a very influential researcher in the field of design and health. The scientific rigor of his studies has been widely acknowledged and his findings have been implemented by many healthcare managers, architects and policy makers in the United States. More specifically he co-wrote a study in 2004 which found over 700 peer-reviewed research studies demonstrating the beneficial impact of the environment on health outcomes. Many of these also showed economic savings as part of the benefits art can provide.