Those who attend the arts report significantly higher levels of happiness than those who don’t, but the opposite is true for those who visit libraries.

Photo of woman at an outdoor concert

'Jazz audience #3' Peder Sterll (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Arts attenders claim to be ‘happier’ than non-attenders, according to a report just released by the DCMS, based on its Taking Part survey findings over three years from 2010/11 to 2012/13.

To measure happiness the Taking Part survey asks respondents: “Taking all things together how happy would you say you are?” Although researchers found the happiness score for those who had attended an arts event within the past 12 months was only 0.8% greater than for others, they describe this difference as “non-trivial”, as relationships between wellbeing and external factors tend to be weak. They point out, however, that the association does not imply a causal relationship between the arts and wellbeing. Other activities associated with higher levels of happiness were participation in “moderate intensity sport” within the past four weeks and visiting a heritage site within the past 12 months.

Whilst arts attendance was found to be linked to happiness, no link is found with visiting a museum or gallery, or participating in arts activities. Visiting a library within the past 12 months was found to have a statistically significant association with lower happiness scores, even after other factors, including income, had been taken into account. Researchers commented: “The reasons underlying this finding are not clear. Further work will be needed to understand whether the nature of library use and/or the happiness levels of those groups using libraries are key factors.”

Liz Hill