Going to Art Galleries, Museums and Concerts This Many Times Linked to Living Longer

People who engage with the arts could boost their lifespans, according to researchers.

The study in question involved 6,710 adults in England aged at least 50, and 65 on average, who provided details on the number of arts activities they took part in each year. That included going to museums, art galleries and exhibitions, as well as the theatre, concerts, or the opera.

Researchers interviewed the participants in 2004/2005, and followed up with them in March 2018 using national health data. By the end of the study, 2,001 people had died.

Compared with people who never engaged in the arts, those who went to arts events at least "every few months" had a 31 percent lower chance of dying during the follow-up period of the study, according to the paper published in The BMJ. That percentage dropped to 14 percent for those who attended events once or twice a year.

The results remained even when the team accounted for factors including socioeconomic status. But as the study was observational, the team couldn't provide proof of the link.

The authors wrote their findings could partly be explained by differences in socioeconomic status of those who do and don't take part in cultural activities. "However, the association remains independent of socioeconomic status, so this does not fully explain the association," they said. "Some of the other factors that accounted for part of the association included mental health and cognition."

"Arts engagement could be linked to longevity by alleviating chronic stress and depression, and providing emotional, cognitive, and social coping resources that support biological regulatory systems and behavioral choices," the authors wrote.

The arts are also associated with building social capital, reducing loneliness, promoting empathy and emotional intelligence, boosting one's sense of purpose, and being active. These factors have all previously linked to greater chances of survival, the authors said.

"The potential mediating role of these factors remains to be explored further in future studies," they noted.

More broadly, leisure activities like gardening and eating out have also been linked to a boost in longevity in past studies.

The study had strengths—that it used a nationally representative database—as well as weaknesses—that it was observational and so didn't find causality, the authors said.

Co-author Daisy Fancourt, associate professor at the Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, University College London, told Newsweek: "In 1996, a paper in The BMJ using Scandinavian data proposed a similar finding.

"We wanted to assess whether this finding could be replicated using a more recent larger sample, tracking individuals over a longer time period and taking account of a wider list of potential confounding factors that could explain an association."

art, london, royal academy of arts, getty
An employee poses in front of 'Charles I in the Hunting Field', 1636, by Anthony van Dyck during a press preview at the Royal Academy of Arts on January 23, 2018 in London, England. Researchers believe engaging in the arts could boost longevity. Jack Taylor/Getty Images