The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a Health Evidence Synthesis report this week that has gathered evidence from a wide range of studies showing arts being beneficial to health. The WHO report suggests that all forms of art including visual arts, performing arts, literature etc. could be helpful in providing support in treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases, neurological conditions and mental illnesses.

For the purpose of the study the researchers classified arts into five categories including performing arts such as singing, dancing, acting etc., visual arts such as painting, pottery, knitting, crafts, design, photography etc., literature including poetry, prose reading, writing, attending literary festivals etc., culture including visiting galleries, museums, art symposiums, music conferences etc. and online arts including digital arts, design and animation.

The team at the WHO Regional Office for Europe included over 900 publications and reviews in scientific journals that included over 3,500 studies. The language chosen for the studies were English and Russian and time duration of the studies chosen for this analysis were between January 2000 and May 2019. All kinds of studies were included in the report. Some were case reports of individual cases, some were pilot studies, some were randomized controlled trials, some were small scale studies while others were longitudinal cohort studies that included large populations across nations.

Dr Piroska Ostlin, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement said, “The examples cited in this groundbreaking WHO report show ways in which the arts can tackle ‘wicked’ or complex health challenges such as diabetes, obesity and mental ill-health. They consider health and well-being in a broader societal and community context and offer solutions that common medical practice has so far been unable to address effectively.” Authors of the study wrote in conclusion that evidence reveals that arts have a significant impact on “both mental and physical health.”

Among performing arts, waltzing lessons were found to be helpful for people with chronic heart failure by providing them with necessary aerobic exercise. Among other non-communicable diseases arts as therapy could benefit patients with asthma, respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancers, write the researchers.