A Relationship Between Arts And Mental Health Essay

A Relationship Between Arts And Mental Health Essay

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In an article published January 2016, “Interest in arts can boost mental health: study”, CTV News claims a new study has shown engaging in the arts for two hours a week improves mental health. This article summarizes a study published by Christina Davies, Matthew Knuiman and Michael Rosenberg from the University of Western Australia that aimed to investigate whether there was a relationship between recreational arts engagement and mental well-being in the general population and, if a relationship was found, quantify it. The media account of Davies et al.’s study implies a causal relationship between arts participation and mental health and omits critical information about the study, inviting the reader to make dangerous assumptions about individuals with mental health issues and their desire to get better.

CTV News’ article begins “In a recent study, a team of researchers from The University of Western Australia have found that participating in the arts for just two hours a week can improve mental health and wellbeing”, implying a cause-and-effect relationship that is not demonstrated by the study. Davies et al. randomly selected phone numbers from the Australian Electronic White Pages and asked respondents 12 questions about their engagement in the arts, 14 questions from the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale and 11 questions designed to control for other variables that might influence the relationship between mental well-being and arts engagement. The results of the study showed that respondents who reported spending over 100 hours engaging in arts in the last 12 months reported better subjective mental well-being than respondents who were less engaged in the arts. Like any observational study, this research cannot dete...


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...caveat, CTV News leads readers to believe engaging in the arts will enhance mental health for all individuals regardless of symptoms and disorders they may already be experiencing.

Studies such as Davies et al.’s provide a starting point for further research, allowing researchers to investigate a relationship between two variables before investing in more costly experiments to determine causality. Reporting on recent research related to mental health and well-being allows the public to learn more, however it is important that the media provide accurate information to avoid perpetuating misconceptions. In this case, the author of the CTV News article asserted there was a causal relationship between mental wellness and recreational arts activities, allowing readers to assume simply engaging in the arts for two hours a week could significantly improve mental well-being.

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