Individual, social & community benefits to the enjoying the arts
The arts are not only enjoyable and entertaining, but they can also have a positive impact on your mental health and well-being. Whether you are creating art, watching art, or listening to art, you are engaging your senses, emotions, and cognition in ways that can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and stimulate your brain. Research shows that the arts can help you manage and express your emotions, develop healthy coping skills, boost your self-esteem and confidence, and foster your creativity and imagination1.
The arts can help improve emotional well-being. The ability to manage and express emotions is critical for lifelong mental health2. The arts can help us understand and communicate our emotions by using all of our senses and our capacity for empathy. Art can help us process challenging feelings and events3.
Art making can help you relax by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Centre yourself by engaging in art making. When all senses are engaged through creativity and art making, the nervous system can relax. In that state, one can experience improved self-regulation, reduced anxiety, a sense of control, and improved executive functioning (e.g., planning, problem-solving, focused attention). Learn more through the Canadian Art Therapy Association.
The arts have been shown to influence children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Studies show arts participation in children contributes to healthy brain development, including building language skills, capacity for self-expression, ability to pay attention and learn, and emotional regulation4.
Calm your mind and let the music set you free. Research shows that music can calm neural activity in the brain, which may lead to reductions in anxiety5. Taking in a music show at the Capitol Centre can be joyful or even exhilarating, but how about singing in a choir? Read about the powerful emotional, psychological, and social well-being benefits of community music.
Participating in arts activities can help older adults achieve a better quality of life and social connectedness. Older adults’ participation in artistic activities has been linked with improved well-being, higher quality of life, and maintenance of close social networks during this life period6. In addition, receptive arts engagement stimulates social interactions and reduces social isolation7.
People who engage in or attend the arts are more likely to report very good or excellent mental health, regardless of their income, gender, or age. Even when socioeconomic factors are taken into account, Canadians aged 15 and older that participate in or attend arts, culture, and heritage activities are more likely to report very good or excellent health and mental health when compared to non-participants and attendees8. Learn more through these infographics.
The arts are not only a source of personal enjoyment and fulfillment, but they can also help you connect with others and feel part of your community. Whether you are attending a live performance, joining a choir, or visiting a gallery, you are creating opportunities for social interaction, learning, and sharing. Research shows that the arts can help you build supportive relationships, feel a sense of belonging, appreciate diversity, and contribute to the well-being of your community. The arts can also help you cope with social isolation, loneliness, and marginalization. The arts can be a bridge between people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.
The arts can create opportunities for social connection. Being socially connected can lead to a longer, healthier life. People with supportive relationships are better able to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, social connectedness can build trust and resilience in communities. Arts engagement among adults has been perceived to facilitate feelings of social connectedness: social opportunities, sharing, commonality and belonging, and collective understanding9.
Attending the arts can help people feel like they are part of their community. 77% of Canadians agree or strongly agree that arts and heritage experiences help them feel part of their local community10.
Communities with more arts tend to have healthier individuals. Research shows strong links between the 1) vitality of cultural arts and activities within a community, and 2) sociocultural, physical and mental health of individuals within those communities11.
The arts are one way to bring people from diverse backgrounds together. Nine in ten Ontarians strongly agree or somewhat agree that arts experiences help bring people from diverse backgrounds together as a community12.
Learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Canadian adults by visiting the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health COVID-19 National Survey Dashboard.
Learn about evidence-based tools and resources to support your mental health.
Find resources and support for child and youth mental health through Kids Help Phone or Children’s Mental Health Ontario.
Learn about mental health services in your area.
Gallant, M. (2017). The art of mental health recovery: A qualitative study of the benefits of creative interventions for people living with severe mental illness. Journal of Mental Health, 26(4), 357-364. Link.
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011). Building the brain’s “air traffic control” system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function (Working Paper No. 11). Link.
World Health Organization. (2023). Arts and health. Retrieved from World Health Organization. Link.
Goldstein, T. R., Lerner, M. D., & Winner, E. (n.d.). The arts as a venue for developmental science: Realizing a latent opportunity. Child Development, 88(5), 1505-13.
Krout, R. E. (2006). Music listening to facilitate relaxation and promote wellness: integrated aspects of our neurophysiological responses to music. Arts Psychotherapy, 34(2), 134-141.
Chacur K, Serrat R, Villar F. (2022). Older adults’ participation in artistic activities: a scoping review. Link.
Camic, P. M., Tischler, V., & Pearman, C. H. (2014). Viewing and making art together: A multi-session art-gallery-based intervention for people with dementia and their carers. Aging & Mental Health, 18(2), 161–168. Link.
Hill Strategies Research Inc. (2021). Canadians’ Arts Participation, Health, and Well-Being. Link.
Perkins, R., Mason-Bertrand, A., Tymoszuk, U., Spiro, N., & Williamon, A. (2021). Arts engagement supports social connectedness in adulthood: findings from the HEartS Survey. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1208. Link.
Community Foundations of Canada. (2017). Vital Signs: Arts & Belonging. Link.
Muirhead, A., & de Leeuw, S. (2012). Art and wellness: The importance of art for Aboriginal peoples’ health and healing. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. Link.
Nanos Research Group & Ontario Arts Council. (2017). Impressions of the impact of the arts on quality of life and well-being in Ontario. Link.