Does leisure engagement affect wellbeing? Health, wellbeing and leisure engagement among adults and young people

Publication type

Conference Paper


Jane Lakey

Publication date


Increasingly policy-makers consider personal well-being to be a key objective in population health. Cross-sectional analyses have shown that health and well-being are associated with engagement in culture and sport. Our research used linked data from waves 2, 5 and 6 of Understanding Society to identify changes in leisure engagement and wellbeing among young people and adults. We examined associations between cross-sectional and longitudinal patterns of engagement and physical and mental health (SF12) and overall life satisfaction in adults. For young people, we investigated associations with self-rated general health, happiness and self-esteem. Multivariate models were used to adjust for a range of social, demographic and household characteristics. Engagement in a wide range of cultural and sports activities was positively and significantly associated with health and wellbeing, and remained significant after adjusting for other relevant factors. Longitudinal analysis of changes in engagement showed fewer significant associations. However, there was evidence that taking up specific cultural activities and engaging with sports was linked to positive changes in health and wellbeing, whereas lapses in cultural and sports engagement were linked with more negative health and wellbeing changes. We will present examples of results for engagement in music, reading and sports and the health and well-being of adults and young people. The research is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports, Arts Council England, Historic England and Sports England.


Well Being, Health, Sport and Arts