A joint venture between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London was awarded £1 million for a new research project on the arts and health.

The HEartS project explored the impact of the arts and culture on health and wellbeing, from individual, social, and economic perspectives.

The team studied the link between cultural pursuits – like joining a choir, learning an instrument, or attending art classes – and health and wellbeing in society. The work is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Previously, smaller arts intervention studies have found links between cultural participation, good health, and lower mortality rates. However, to date there have been few larger-scale studies involving the arts across the UK. The study will gather new empirical and qualitative data over three years.

HEartS investigated:

  • The effect of arts and cultural pursuits on health and wellbeing.
  • How the arts support health.
  • The financial value of engaging with the arts in relation to health.
  • How and why these effects might vary among different people.

To support the core team, the researchers established strategic partnerships with a range of public health and arts organisations. Public health partners include Public Health England, NHS Health Scotland, Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, the Royal Society for Public Health and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. Arts partners include Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Creative Scotland, Conservatoires UK (which includes eleven performing arts HEIs), Sage Gateshead, Beamish and Tunbridge Wells museums, The Ambassador Theatre Group, Rambert Dance Company and Akademi South Asian Dance.

Other cultural pursuits the researchers explored included going to museums, galleries, and concerts.

HEartS is run by the Centre for Performance Science.

Supported by

Project team

Aaron Williamon

Daisy Fancourt (University College London)

Marissa Miraldo (Imperial College)

Rosie Perkins

Robert Perneczky (Imperial College)

Neta Spiro

Project outputs

Lee SL, Pearce E, Ajnakina O, Johnson S, Lewis G, Mann F, Pitman A, Solmi F, Sommerlad A, Steptoe A, Tymoszuk U, & Lewis G (2020), The association between loneliness and depressive symptoms among adults aged 50 years and older: a 12-year population-based cohort study, The Lancet Psychiatry, 8, 48-57 [DOI].

Fancourt D, Garnett C, Spiro N, West R, & Müllensiefen D (2019), How do artistic creative activities regulate our emotions? Validation of the Emotion Regulation Strategies for Artistic Creative Activities Scale (ERS-ACA), PLOS One, 14 (e0211362), 1-22 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Steptoe A (2019), Effects of creativity on social and behavioural adjustment in 7- to 11-year old children, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1438, 30-39 [DOI].

Fancourt D & Tymoszuk U (2018), Cultural engagement and incident depression in older adults: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, British Journal of Psychiatry, 214, 225-229 [DOI].

Mak HW & Fancourt D (2019), Arts engagement and self‐esteem in children: results from a propensity score matching analysis, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1449, 36-45 [DOI].

Mak HW & Fancourt D (2019), Reading for pleasure in childhood and adolescent healthy behaviours: longitudinal associations using the Millennium Cohort Study, Preventive Medicine, 130 (105889), 1-8 [DOI].

Mak HW & Fancourt D (2019), Longitudinal associations between ability in arts activities, behavioural difficulties and self-esteem: analyses from the 1970 British Cohort Study, Scientific Reports, 9 (14236), 1-7 [DOI].

Perkins R (2021), Group singing to support women experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression, International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, 8, 20-23.

Perkins R, Kaye SL, Zammit BB, Mason-Bertrand A, Spiro N, & Williamon A (2022), How arts engagement supported social connectedness during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK: findings from the HEartS Survey, Public Health, 207, 1-6 [DOI].

Perkins R, Mason-Bertrand A, Fancourt D, Baxter L, & Williamon A (2020), How participatory music engagement supports mental wellbeing: a meta-ethnography, Qualitative Health Research, 30, 1924-1940 [DOI].

Perkins R, Mason-Bertrand A, Tymoszuk U, Spiro N, Gee K, & Williamon A (2021), Arts engagement supports social connectedness in adulthood: findings from the HEartS Survey, BMC Public Health, 21 (1208), 1-15 [DOI].

Shaikh M, Tymoszuk U, Williamon A, & Miraldo M (2021), Socio-economic inequalities in arts engagement and depression among older adults in the United Kingdom: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Public Health, 198, 307-314 [DOI].

Shaughnessy C, Perkins R, Spiro N, Waddell G, & Williamon A (forthcoming), Cultivating progressive development in the cultural industries: challenges and support needs identified by the creative workforce in the United Kingdom, Cultural Trends [DOI]

Spiro N, Perkins R, Kaye S, Tymoszuk U, Mason-Bertrand A, Cossette I, Glasser S, & Williamon A (2021), The effects of COVID-19 Lockdown 1.0 on working patterns, income, and wellbeing among performing arts professionals in the United Kingdom (April-June 2020), Frontiers in Psychology, 11 (594086), 1-17 [DOI] [DATASET].

Tsiris G, Spiro N, Coggins O, & Zubala A (2020), The Impact Areas Questionnaire (IAQ): a music therapy service evaluation tool, Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 20, 1-27 [DOI].

Tymoszuk U, Perkins R, Fancourt D, & Williamon A (2020), Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between receptive arts engagement and loneliness among older adults, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology55, 891-900 [DOI].

Tymoszuk U, Perkins R, Spiro N, Williamon A, & Fancourt D (2020), Longitudinal associations between short-term, repeated, and sustained arts engagement and well-being outcomes in older adults, Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 75, 1609-1619 [DOI].

Tymoszuk U, Spiro N, Perkins R, Mason-Bertrand A, Gee K, & Williamon A (2021), Arts engagement trends in the United Kingdom and their mental and social wellbeing implications: HEartS Survey, PLOS One, 16 (e0246078), 1-35 [DOI] [DATASET].

Warran K, Fancourt D, & Perkins R (2019), The experience and perceived impact of group singing for men living with cancer: a phenomenological study, Psychology of Music, 47, 874-889 [DOI].

Warran K, Fancourt D, & Wiseman T (2019), How does the process of group singing impact on people affected by cancer? A grounded theory study, BMJ Open, 9 (e023261), 1-9 [DOI].

Williamon A, Spiro N, Kaye S, Tymoszuk U, Mason-Bertrand A, & Perkins R (2021), HEartS Professional Survey: charting the effects of COVID-19 Lockdown 1.0 on working patterns, income, and wellbeing among performing arts professionals in the United Kingdom (April-June 2020), Dryad, dataset [DOI].

Williamon A, Tymoszuk U, Spiro N, Gee K, Mason-Bertrand A, & Perkins R (2021), HEartS Survey 2019: charting the health, economic, and social impact of the arts, Dryad, dataset [DOI].


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