Is Art Good For Your Health?

Why is commissioned art in hospitals such a problem for some? The evidence suggests that, just as much as in other public and work places, art can help people to be comfortable and positive.
There they are, the arbiters of ‘value’, getting very upset about money which has been spent in one or two hospitals on ‘art’. It’s a waste, they declare. We could be buying more drugs or equipment, but we’re squandering the readies on something that you just…. look at!
Well, perhaps these joyless folk haven’t grasped the concept of added value. Perhaps the evidence, from a variety of sources, that being happy (or at least, happier than before) helps you to get better has passed them by. If you can see green vistas, or pleasant pictures and images, you will relax more easily, and you may even be able to leave hospital a day or so earlier than if you’re stuck in a grey and souless place.
There are not that many ways in which service providers can actually save on overall budget and, at the same time, increase effectiveness and make people happier – but this is indeed one of them!
No-one seems to be saying that art is going to replace medical treatments. Proper consideration of clinical diagnosis and treatment must always be absolutely paramount. Medicine will however always be an art as well as a science.
If people in hospital have pleasant things to see and think about, if they can look at artefacts which help them to feel they are still connected with their wider comminuties and interests, if there are nice things to talk about with fellow patients, that makes a difference.
But ‘nice things to look at’ don’t just appear; they have to be created. I remember Adrian Henri, who painted murals for the operating theatre suite at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, recounting how much research he was obliged to do before he so much as lifted a brush. He had to ensure his images gave no unwitting offence or alarm to patients from many different faiths and cultures as they entered a place none of volunters to visit.
Perhaps those who choose to take such a high-handed and cold view of what’s appropriate for people in hospitals should remember that the evidence also points compellingly to the idea that pleasant workplaces are good… and that applies whether you work in a commercial office or a medical context. We all benefit from environments which make us comfortable and positive. And the evidence is there to show this benefit can be measured in outcomes even accountants would acknowledge.
Within sensible reason, let’s agree that there’s always a place, when were thinking about real people, for soul as well as science. Who knows when any of us might be in hospital and glad of a little visual cheer?

Posted on October 30, 2005, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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