The proportion of children who have visited a heritage site in the previous week has risen over the past 12 months

Museum and gallery visitors 'are happier'

Geraldine Kendall, Issue 112/10, p11, Geraldine Kendall
But survey points to drop in visits from five- to 10-year-olds
The latest data from the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) rolling survey of cultural participation appears to show a significant link between engagement with culture, including museum and gallery visits, and levels of subjective happiness.

The Taking Part survey, which covers England and is updated every three months, found that those who had engaged with heritage in the past 12 months reported higher happiness scores (8.0) than those who had not (7.6).

Engagement with museums and galleries was particularly linked to greater levels of happiness among women, while participation in arts and heritage was found to increase happiness, regardless of income.

The report claimed that the data demonstrated the impact that cultural activities have on wellbeing.

It concluded: “There is a need to better understand the reasons for these findings to enable potential enhancement of subjective wellbeing through policy and initiative design in these sectors.”

The Museums Association’s head of policy, Maurice Davies, said the findings fitted with the MA’s  research into the impact museums and galleries can have on individuals and communities, which is being conducted as part of the Museums 2020 campaign.

“This is interesting because ‘happiness and wellbeing’ is an emerging trend in the thinking about the impact of museums that we’ve identified in Museums 2020,” he added.

The Taking Part survey also revealed a significant fall in the proportion of children and teenagers who had visited a museum in the previous 12 months.

The proportion among five- to 10-year-olds fell from 68% to 61% between 2010-11 and 2011-12, while among 11- to 15-year-olds, it dropped from 65% to 61%.

But the survey showed that the percentage of children who had visited a heritage site in the previous week had risen from 5% in 2008-09 to 12% in 2011-12.

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