Moving America Forward

If You’re Happy And You Know it, You Probably Participate in Arts

June 13, 2014
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If You’re Happy And You Know it, You Probably Participate in Arts
A happy brick. Stephen Boisvert/Flickr
Several studies find that participation in or appreciation of the arts increases happiness.

Besides reducing or eliminating a commute to work, what increases Americans’ happiness?

While you may not take our word for it, participating in the arts or appreciating them will help make you happy — and these recent studies back up that claim.

Carol Graham and other researchers of the Brookings Institution analyzed two data sets — the National Endowment of the Art’s Survey of Public Participation in the Arts and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Graham writes, “Our results provide moderate support for well-being being positively supported with arts consumption and production.”

People who consume art in its many forms were more likely to indicate a higher sense of well being, while performers of jazz and classical music and participants in plays were “more likely to be satisfied with their standards of living, even though they were not wealthier.”

Along the same line, Steven Tepper and others at Vanderbilt University examined correlations between well-being and participating in a variety of art forms: fine arts, clothing design, video production, playing or composing music, theater, dance, crafts, gardening, artful cooking, and creative writing in the study, “Artful Living: Examining Relationships between Artistic Practice and Subjective Well-Being across Three National Surveys.”

The researchers concluded that there is “strong support that artistic practice is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, a more positive self-image, less anxiety about change, a more tolerant and open approach to diverse others, and, in some cases, less focus on materialistic values on the acquisition of goods.” Tepper and his colleagues found an even stronger correlation between happiness and artistic participation in women and minorities.

So how much money is the appreciation or production of art worth in terms of happiness? A study out of the United Kingdom entitled “Quantifying and Valuing the Well-Being Impacts of Culture and Sport” asked just that. The findings? The benefits of participating in arts activities was worth about £90 extra per month.

So if you’re feeling glum, it might be time to take up painting, dancing, or guitar playing.

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