Visitors at Glasgow's Riverside Museum

Museum visitors one fifth more likely to report good health

Geraldine Kendall, 21.08.2013
Research shows link between culture and wellbeing
A study by the Scottish government has for the first time established a clear and consistent link between culture, good health and high life satisfaction.

Based on data from the Scottish Household Survey 2011, the Healthy Attendance? report found that people who participate in culture or attend cultural places and events were more likely to report good health and life satisfaction.

The research showed that this remained true even after other factors such as age, economic status, income, area deprivation, education, smoking, disability or long-standing illness were taken into account.

The findings found that people who visited a museum were 20% more likely to report good health and 37% more likely to report high life satisfaction than those who did not.

The figure was even higher for people who visited a historical or archaeological place, who were over 50% more likely to report high life satisfaction.

The figures showed that people who attended a cultural place or event were 60% more likely to report good health, while those who participated in a cultural or creative activity were 38% more likely to report good health.

The report builds on evidence from the longitudinal study Growing Up in Scotland, which has shown that exposure to cultural activities has an impact on children’s cognitive development.

It also backs up research in other countries showing a causal relationship between engagement in culture and health.

Mark O'Neill, director of policy & research at Glasgow Life, said: “This is a really ground-breaking piece of work for Scotland – and for the UK.

“It demonstrates, for the first time, a clear association between cultural attendance and improved health and wellbeing.

"It strengthens the case for cultural participation being included in any assessment of life satisfaction – and in any holistic public health strategy.”

The research lends support to initiatives such as the Happy Museum Project and the Museums Association’s (MA) recently-launched Museums Change Lives campaign.

The MA’s head of policy, Maurice Davies, said: “This report confirms the perceptions we have that museums are good for people. However, we mustn't be complacent.

“It's essential to understand how we can change what we do to have an increased impact on people's lives. Museums Change Lives has many suggestions about that.”


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02.09.2013, 10:48
So this research shows that people who 'get out and about' enjoy a greater level of well being?! No sugar Sherlock!! A comparator is required here, compared with other people who get out and about e.g. people who go e.g. fishing, horse racing etc
Deepa Shastri
Live Events Programme Officer, STAGETEXT
23.08.2013, 11:57
As this report was on a national level, I would be keen to see similar survey being carried out within Museums and Galleries visitors and include a question that would enable us to identify the correlation in between well being and having accessible public events to welcome visitors using speech to text / audio description / BSL interpretation etc? For example, older people may have stopped going to public events because they find it too difficult to follow the lecture due to their hearing loss. Would their well being be enhanced because the right access provisions has been made, i.e. the speech to text access for public talks or lectures? Or subtitling any of the online resources for in-depth engagement. This would provide real evidence and a clear way forward, especially when one in six people are D/deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
21.08.2013, 19:50
Oh please, this is a no brainer a bit like research that finds people who visit restaurants live happier and healthier lives... more likely because of the link between health, well being and standard of living (income) than because of museums. If museums were more equally visited by the 'other half' of the country on lower incomes, instead of the comparatively low turn outs they currently show, especially the nationals, then maybe we could take this 'research' seriously!!
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
27.08.2013, 10:17
The research does claim to take factors including income and long-term illness into account, and still finds that museum visitors were more likely to report good health and high life satisfaction.