With our busy lifestyles it’s very difficult to devote time to leisure activities. However, according to a recent report in the BMJ Journal, by taking time to visit art galleries and museums, or going to the theater or opera, you will be helping yourself avoid an early death.
The findings were recently shared by researchers based at the University College London. Scientists were able to determine from their sample of 6,000 participants aged 50-plus that those who regularly took part in the arts had a 31% higher chance of living longer than those who didn’t. In fact by just engaging in the arts once or twice a year the risk of dying early was reduced by a still significant 14%.
“While other health behaviors like smoking, alcohol and exercise are undoubtedly bigger predictors of mortality, these leisure and pleasure activities that people don’t think as a health related activity do support good health and longevity,” explained one of the co-authors of the study, associate professor Daisy Fancourt.
The study, which was based on data collected from 2004 onward, followed the habits of its participants and noted their attendance of various art exhibitions and shows, including opera and concerts. (For all you movie lovers, cinema was not considered in this study.)
It’s not entirely certain as to why people engaging in the arts live longer. First, social and economic differences play an important role as to whether someone would partake in the arts or not. And although wealth had an important role to play, it wasn’t the only reason behind the findings. The researchers also saw how mental health, cognitive differences, social and civic engagement, mobility and disability, and deprivation played a part, as reported by Katie Hunt for CNN.
While it’s already been shown how being artistic is beneficial for relieving stress — even if you’re no Michelangelo — Fancourt goes on to say “how the arts can act as a buffer against stress and build creativity that allows people to adapt to changing circumstances. It also helps people build social capital — accessing emotional support and information that helps people age more successfully,” adding, “We also thought that a greater sense of purpose could play a role.”
As further research is required to get to the heart of why engaging in the arts can help us live longer, the study provides great motivation to get out there and enjoy the arts. If you have no art galleries or museums in your area, try planning a trip to one out of town, or consider a pilgrimage to some of the shrines dedicated to some of America’s holiest people. Of course, you can also take some time after Mass to see what works of art your own church has to offer.
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