Art and Health: The Real-World Benefits of Viewing Art
Want to improve your health? Forget fad diets or fasts and try looking at some art.
It’s true—recent studies and research have proven that a trip to the art gallery or a museum can positively impact your health and well-being in several essential ways, like lowering anxiety and depression and boosting critical thinking skills.
Here are some hard facts on why art is good for your body (and your soul).
Viewing art makes you healthier
A research study in Norway, known as the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, collected information from 130,000 Norwegians ages 13 and up. The study questioned more than 50,000 men and women about how often they participated in cultural activities like attending galleries and museums or viewing films.
According to Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the study discovered that there was a definite correlation between participating in cultural activities—like creating art or attending concerts—and having increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression in both men and women.
Specifically, 84 percent of those who participated in at least 4 art-related activities reported good health, and 91 percent reported a high level of satisfaction in their lives.
Furthermore, the study concluded that these benefits were found in people who both created or consumed the arts. That means that people who enjoy looking at art get the exact same health benefits as people who enjoy making art.
Interestingly enough, females received more benefits from actively creating art, while males got more benefits from passively viewing art.
Museum and gallery visits improve thinking and empathy
A study published by the University of Arkansas in 2014 determined the impact of students taking a field trip to an art museum, showing that the visit changed how the students thought and felt for the better.
More than 10,000 students were surveyed, and the majority of them (70 to 88 percent) retained factual information from the tours. Students also displayed improved critical thinking skills as well as gains in tolerance and historical empathy following the trip.
Art can help you mimic the physical sensation of falling in love
Additionally, science has shown that viewing beautiful artwork can actually cause you to experience the same physical reactions we get when we fall in love.
Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist with the University of London, scanned the brains of volunteers while they viewed 28 works of art. Zeki discovered when a person views art they find beautiful, it triggers an immediate release of dopamine into the brain–a chemical related to feelings of love, pleasure, and desire.
These scientific studies just prove what many great thinkers and philosophers have expressed in the past.
Plato, for instance, believed that the arts were powerful shapers of character, able to stir up emotions and influence our behavior. Meanwhile, G.W.F. Hegel saw art’s role as giving intuitive, sensuous benefits to the viewer by showing us what divine and human freedom can look like.
It turns out that the philosophers were right. Art CAN make you happier. Art CAN nourish both your body and spirit—and it can do it in ways that a salad or supplement never could.
So, for the good for your health, go look at some art, OK?
If you’re tired at staring at blank walls, why not add a little color and art to your surroundings? (Remember: science says it’s good for you.)
But, if you’re looking for the health benefits of viewing art in person (and you’re in the Detroit area), you should definitely visit Park West Museum, a free-to-the public museum featuring works by many of art history’s greatest figures, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Francisco Goya, and Albrecht Dürer.
You can find more information about visiting Park West Museum here.