Happy visitors to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow

Report finds visiting museums boosts happiness

Gareth Harris, 18.04.2013
Visits to museums valued at £3,200 annually
A new report by an economist from the London School of Economics and Political Science has concluded that “visiting museums is positively associated with higher levels of happiness”.

Daniel Fujiwara was commissioned by the Happy Museum Project to evaluate the effect of museums on individuals’ wellbeing. He found museums improve people’s happiness and perception of good health, even after other factors that might be influencing them are accounted for.

His report, Museums and Happiness: the value of participating in museums and the arts, also illustrates happiness levels in monetary terms – and claims that people value visiting museums at around £3,200 annually.

This is based on a methodology that equates how happy museums make people with how happy money makes them. Fujiwara also found that participating in the arts has the same wellbeing value as participating in sports at around £1,500 to £2,000.  

He said: “The methodology can derive valid and plausible measures of value for a range of non-market goods and services. It is based on people’s actual experiences and puts at the centre of the analysis what ultimately matters to us: the welfare and wellbeing of society.”

His happiness report also states that people who are not taken to museums by their parents are far less likely to visit museums as adults.

Tony Butler, the director of the Happy Museum Project, said: “Counting visitor numbers tells us nothing about the quality of their experience. Museums are adept at storytelling, but we wanted the longitudinal or quantitative evidence that might influence policy makers.”  

The Happy Museum Project was inspired by a 2011 manifesto for wellbeing, co-written by the New Economics Foundation thinktank, that suggested a strong link between people's wellbeing and economic and environmental sustainability.

The happiness report was funded by Arts Council England and used data from the Taking Part survey, which is commissioned annually by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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