We recognise the importance of nutrition and exercise to well-being, but how does art affect health? This is exactly the question PhD candidate Christina Davies at The University of Western Australia is asking.
"People may think it's a bit self-indulgent to do something creative but what if art was good for you?" Ms Davies said. "Given the significant pressure on our health system, what if involvement in the arts holds the key to a new type of health promotion?"
The Healthway-funded study is the first internationally to assess the link between self-directed arts engagement (for enjoyment, entertainment or as a hobby) and general population health, including mental, social and physical health. The three-year study involves both international experts and members of the community and seeks to gain a holistic perspective of outcomes.
"Often when people come home from work they'll listen to music or read a book," Ms Davies said. "In their free time they might go to a festival, movie or concert and may enjoy photography or dancing. They may not realise it, but they are engaging with the arts when they do this."
Ms Davies said there was a growing body of evidence that the arts can be used as a therapy but few studies have looked scientifically at how making or experiencing art affects the health of the general community.
"We have had a fantastic community response to our interviews and surveys, and we look forward in the not-too-distant future to sharing our findings," she said.
Ms Davies, who has a Healthway scholarship and a background in psychology, evaluation and health promotion, is also a passionate artist, with interests in painting and photography.
Her supervisors are Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg and Winthrop Professor Matthew Knuiman, senior academics in health promotion and public health.