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Got culture? Museums, theaters and concert halls may be the ticket to a happy, healthy life

May 24, 2011|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
  • People who attended concerts, went to museums, and engaged in cultural activities in general were happier and healthier in a recent study.
People who attended concerts, went to museums, and engaged in cultural… (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles…)

The secret to a healthy, happy life may be found at an art gallery, movie theater or concert hall. (It might even be in church, a baseball stadium or gym.) At least if you live in Norway.

A study of more than 50,000 Norwegian men and women found that those involved in cultural activities -- either “receptive” activities like attending a concert or a baseball game or “creative” ones like playing in a band or working out -- were more likely to be satisfied with their lives and to say they were in good health. They were also less likely to experience anxiety or depression.

The particular activities that made a difference were a little different for men and women. For instance, women who attended sporting events were more likely to report being in “good” or “very good” health. For men, involvement with any receptive cultural activity, including visiting a museum or going to the theater, was linked with “good” or “very good” perceived health.

With regard to depression, both men and women had lower scores if they participated in clubs, outdoor activites or worked out. Women also had lower scores if they went dancing, and men also had lower scores if they were involved in music, singing or theater.

Generally speaking, the more people engaged in various cultural activities, the better their scores:

“In both women and men, a dose-response effect was indicated,” the researchers wrote. “The frequency of cultural particpation and the number of different activities were positively associated with good health, SWL (satisfaction with life), a lower anxiety score and a lower depression score.”

Of course, people who earn more money were more likely to take part in both receptive and creative cultural activities. And it's well known that people with higher incomes are also more likely to be healthy. But the researchers found that a link between cultural partipation and health that was independent of socioeconomic status.

The results were published online late Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. A summary is available here.

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