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Art in Health

With ever-increasing demands, exacerbated by societal expectations, it’s not difficult to see why we are more anxious and depressed as a society than at any other time in human history. The readily-available knowledge at the tips of our fingers gives us scope to compare ourselves to “nearly impossible standards”, fuelling an epidemic of dissatisfaction.

It’s no secret that engaging in creative activity can counteract this and boost wellbeing. In fact, a study published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, titled “Reduction of Cortisol levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making” found that 45 minutes of art-making significantly lowered cortisol levels, a key hormone in the body’s stress response.

Another study concluded that using art as therapy resulted in “improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence” as it provided a “safe space for reflection on mental health issues.” Since art is an opportunity of self-expression, creating art can help sufferers of stress to improve their own well-being by helping others to relate to/understand their plight.

Such was the case for artist Emma Barnard, who (after obtaining patient consent), photographed patients before a consultation, and asked them to draw on the photographs once completed. It was clear that some patients “felt more comfortable expressing their feelings visually than in words”.

However, the benefits of art as therapy is not limited to hospital patients; art can be used to manage a plethora of issues. Health Secretary Matt Hancock concluded “access to the arts and social activities improves people’s mental and physical health. Art makes us happier and healthier.”