I have long been a proponent of art, music, museums, theatre, and film. Such parts of life not only allow us to better understand ourselves but also lift the sails of our soul. The first opera I attended was in Madison and it had a profound impact on me, to the point that from then on each year is planned so the symphony, art openings, and museums are placed on the agenda. Life is enhanced with such outstanding experiences.
Now, there is evidence that simply being exposed to the arts may help people live longer.
Researchers in London who followed thousands of people 50 and older over a 14-year period discovered that those who went to a museum or attended a concert just once or twice a year were 14 percent less likely to die during that period than those who didn’t.
The chances of living longer only went up the more frequently people engaged with the arts, according to the study, which was published this month in The BMJ, formerly The British Medical Journal. People who went to a museum or the theater once a month or even every few months had a 31 percent reduced risk of dying in that period, according to the study.
Many studies have examined the positive effects of the arts on older people.
Americans over 55 who did not create art or go to concerts, museums or plays reported higher rates of hypertension and cognitive decline than those who did, according to a study of nearly 1,500 participants released by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2017.
Similar studies have shown the benefits of exposing children and adolescents to art.
University of Arkansas researchers found that children who were taken on field trips to museums performed better in school and scored higher on standardized tests than those whose schools did not take students on field trips.
The London study is believed to be the first comprehensive examination of the effects of art on mortality, Professor Steptoe said.
From 2004 to 2005, researchers collected data from 6,710 people who responded to questionnaires about how often they went to concerts, museums, galleries, the theater or the opera.
“Too often, the arts are seen as this frill, but they really do play an essential role in our lives,” Ms. Hitchens said. “Now we have a study telling us it helps us live longer. It’s just yet the latest example of how powerful the arts are.”
Advocates said the study was also a reminder of how critical it is for the arts to be more accessible to Americans of all incomes.
I think it most important for schools to make efforts at providing access to the arts for students, who may not otherwise in the path of their lives, have such an opportunity. Especially in rural school districts where funds and opportunities are more restricted.
I grew up in a rural part of Wisconsin and know such trips to Madison and Minneapolis to experience plays and go to museums made a deep impression on me. The world was so much larger, and the energy of places far from my hometown so powerful, that in time all that helped to pull me into adulthood. The connection of a large orchestra or the paintings and sculptures in a museum needs to be experienced first hand. There is no better time to make such introductions than in childhood.
If done the money spent on making it happen will allow for a lifetime of benefits.