The impact of arts, culture and sport on life satisfaction

Taking part in arts and cultural activities or sport makes us happier, according to new research which analysed the impact of these activities on subjective wellbeing. 

Researchers Dan Wheatley, from the University of Birmingham, and Craig Bickerton, from Nottingham Trent University, used data from Understanding Society to compare levels of participation in arts and culture, such as museum visits and arts events, and sporting acvitivites with the people's reported wellbeing levels. They wanted to see whether taking part in these activities impacted on heatlh, wellbeing and overall life satisfaction and whether this effect changed depending on how frequently people took part in the activities.

Life satisfaction increases as people take part in arts and sport

They found that arts, cultural activities and sport increased people's wellbeing, their overall life and health satisfaction and their satisfaction with the amount of leisure time they had. People were generally more involved in sports than arts activities, although the researchers found that involvement in arts activities increased noticeably over the time period they looked at - 51% of Understanding Society participants were involved in some form of arts activity in Wave 2, increasing to 66% in Wave 5 of the survey. The research found:

  • Overal life satisfaction increased when people engaged in arts events and visited historic sites and museums.
  • Taking part in arts and cultural events increased people's satisfaction with their leisure time.
  • Wellbeing levels increased with participation in sport, particularly sport that required more active engagement.
Different activities make us happy in different ways

By comparing the how people rate their life satisfaction, wellbeing, health and amount of leisure time this research shows that different activities benefit people in different ways. Whilst sport has obvious health benefits through encouraging people to be more physically active, the research suggests that the social interaction side of sport and arts is beneficial, giving people a community to belong to and interests outside their working life.

You can read the research here.