First systematic review of visual arts and mental health

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing has published the first systematic review looking at the subjective wellbeing outcomes of engaging with visual arts for working-age adults with diagnosed mental health conditions. The research found strong evidence demonstrating that “visual arts activities, of various kinds, can reduce depression and anxiety and increase confidence and self-esteem.”

The review found strong evidence for the way collective art making can build relationships and promising evidence for the impact of the arts on women experiencing burnout and people with a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The research concluded that “Engagement with visual arts can support phased progress towards recovery, re-engagement with ‘everyday life’ and other people in a local culture and community. The creative process can help participants immerse themselves and escape from everyday anxieties and in some cases, thrive with the new identity of ‘artist’ or member. It matters how activities are run.”

The most effective interventions provided:

• safe spaces where people did not feel stigmatised

• facilitation by empathetic teams of practitioners/researchers