Trips to art galleries, museums linked to longer life: Study

London, Dec 19 (PTI) Regular visits to museums, the theatre, concerts and art galleries may be associated with a longer life, according to a study of older adults in the UK.

The finding, published in The BMJ journal, is important given the focus on social prescribing schemes that refer people to community arts activities to improve their health and wellbeing, the researchers said.

Previous studies have found that engaging with the arts can improve a person's physical and mental wellbeing, including depression, dementia, chronic pain, and frailty, they said.

However, whether arts engagement can improve survival remains unclear.

The researchers at University College London in the UK set out to explore the association between different frequencies of arts engagement and mortality.

Their findings are based on data from more than 6,000 adults in the UK aged 50 years and over who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Frequency of arts activities, including going to the theatre, concerts, opera, museums, art galleries, and exhibitions, was measured at the start of the study in 2004-5.

Participants were then followed up for an average of 12 years, during which time deaths were recorded using the UK National Health Service (NHS) mortality data.

After taking account of a range of economic, health and social factors, the researchers found that people who engaged in arts activities once or twice a year had a 14 per cent lower risk of dying at any time during the follow-up period than those who never engaged.

People who engaged in arts activities more frequently (every few months or more) had a 31 per cent lower risk of dying, the study found.

This protective association was largely explained by differences in cognition -- thinking and understanding -- mental health, and physical activity levels among those who did and did not engage in the arts.

However, results were maintained independent of these and other factors such as mobility problems, deprivation, wealth, and retirement, the researchers said.

This is an observational study, so can't establish cause, and the researchers acknowledge the limitations of measuring cultural engagement at only one point in time. PTI SAR SAR