Tag Archives: healthcare

Take a pill or see a play?

doctor writing prescriptionby Stephen Sachs

Need a cure for what ails you? Next time you see your doctor, the prescription he or she scribbles may surprise you: see a play.

Research is now proving that gathering with other people to see a play, listen to music or watch a dance concert not only heals the soul. It mends the body, as well.

Doctors generally prescribe pills to make people feel better. Yet the medical benefits of engaging with the arts are well-recorded. A first-of-its-kind study last year found that the social engagement of art is an effective way to improve the health and well-being of patients with such long-term conditions as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis—which often exacerbate symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

Going to the theatre and being part of an audience, joining other human beings in a shared live experience, has medical benefits. Countless studies have found that social isolation takes a heavy toll on our well-being over time. One of the advantages of joining other theater-goers to see a play is that it reduces feelings of loneliness. Our daily lives in front of computer screens can be isolating. Attending live theatre boosts a sense of belonging and face-to-face human connectedness.

In January this year, the U.K. appointed Tracey Crouch to serve as its first “minister of loneliness” to explore how to combat the “sad reality of modern life”. According to a report last year from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, more than 9 million people in Britain—around 14% of the population—often or always feel lonely. The numbers are even higher in the United States. Cigna’s recent survey revealed 46% of Americans — nearly half the population.– report sometimes or always feeling alone.

“We should value the arts because they’re essential to our health and wellbeing,” says British Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “Access to the arts improves people’s mental and physical health. It makes us happier and healthier.”

The larger question we must ask ourselves is: What sort of society do we want? One that generates physical and emotional illness and then thrives on pharmaceuticals to put it right? Or a society that embraces a more holistic approach to public health through social responsibility and artistic engagement? Given the toxic state of our politics and the poisonous nature of our society and environment today, it is remarkable that we manage to keep going as we are. But for how long? The dilemma was raised by Samuel Beckett, once again, at the theatre, “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

Witnessing a powerful play can illuminate what it means to be a human being and connect us to a larger and higher vision of ourselves. In his powerful account of his own holocaust experience, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl concludes that the ‘search for meaning is the primary motivation in life’. He describes lack of meaning as an ‘existential vacuum’, often manifesting as boredom, and invaded by numerous neurotic and addictive problems. He quotes Nietzsche:

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’

This echoes, of course, the eternal question posed by Hamlet: “To be, or not to be …”  This is how theatre triggers self-treatment. A theater-goer witnessing Hamlet’s struggle on stage is himself, from the audience, thrown into questioning the purpose of his or her own life. A great play, seen in the most public of settings, generates intimate self-examination and, at the same time, connects us to our fellow beings. Theatre is a journey inward and outward.

The arts play a critical role in the better health of our nation.  Not only spiritually and aesthetically — but physically, medically.  The arts, like health care, not only make life better — they make it livable. Congress seems to agree. Despite Trump’s call to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, Congress passed a 2019 budget increase of more than $2 million to the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Even with this modest 2019 budget increase in arts funding, the United States is writing a doctor’s prescription to itself. Politicians must learn to protect the NEA as fervently as they defend the Second Amendment.

More than guns, Americans have the right to bear arts.

Stephen Sachs in the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us … (who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!) Here is my updated list for 2012.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $166 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 5.7 million jobs and generating nearly $30 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $27.79 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($40.19 vs. $19.53)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts are the cornerstone of tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17 to 24 percent), while the share attending concerts and theater performances increased five of the past seven years (13 to 17 percent since 2003).

6. Arts are an export industry. U.S. exports of arts goods (everything from movies to paintings to jewelry) grew to $64 billion in 2010. With U.S. imports at just $23 billion, the arts achieved a $41 billion trade surplus in 2010.

7. Building the 21st century workforce. Reports by The Conference Board show creativity is among the top-five applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”

8. Healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

9. Stronger communities. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

10. Creative Industries. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.3 million people—representing 4.25 percent of all businesses and 2.15 percent of all employees, respectively.

11. What is your #11? Share with us in the comments below…

Keep up the great work!

Randy Cohen is vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation’s advocacy organization for the arts.