Patterns of social inequality in arts and cultural participation: findings from a nationally representative sample of adults living in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Public Health Panorama


Hei Wan Mak, Rory Coulter and Daisy Fancourt

Publication date


CONTEXT: A significant amount of literature indicates the health benefits of arts engagement. However, as this engagement is socially patterned, differential access to and participation in the arts may contribute to social and health inequalities. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to uncover the patterns of participation in arts activities and engagement with culture and heritage among adults in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to examine whether such patterns are associated with demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. METHODOLOGY: We applied latent class analysis to data on arts and cultural participation among 30 695 people in the Understanding Society study. Multinomial logistic regression was used to identify predictors for the patterns of activity engagement. RESULTS: For arts participation, adults were clustered into “engaged omnivores,” “visual and literary arts,” “performing arts” and “disengaged.” For cultural engagement, adults were clustered into “frequently engaged,” “infrequently engaged” and “rarely engaged.” Regression analysis showed that the patterns of arts activity were structured by demographic and socioeconomic factors. CONCLUSION: This study reveals a social gradient in arts and cultural engagement. Given the health benefits of arts engagement, this suggests the importance of promoting equal access to arts and cultural programmes, to ensure that unequal engagement does not exacerbate health inequalities.

Volume and page numbers

6, 55-68




Social Groups, Demography, Arts, Social Stratification and Social Behaviour



Open Access; Some rights reserved. All articles published in this issue are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 IGO License.