Longevity and the Arts

Here’s an unusual piece of research that directly bears on “Sustainable Living” … and particularly on Quality-of-Life considerations.

I think we can all say that “beauty is a good thing” whether expressed in a painting or work of literature or through music. And while some paintings or music appeal to me, while others don’t, and while we each will likely differ on which pieces of art we personally value, the research simply included any and all participation in “the arts.”

What I didn’t expect was statistically-supported evidence between our experience in one form or another in the arts and our longevity.

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The art of life and death:

 

14 year follow-up analyses of associations between arts engagement and mortality in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

 

Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology

Andrew Steptoe, professor of psychology and epidemiology

 

BMJ 

18 December 2019

 

 

Abstract

 

Objective:

To explore associations between different frequencies of arts

engagement and mortality over a 14 year follow-up period.

 

Design:

Prospective cohort study.

 

Participants:

English Longitudinal Study of Ageing cohort of 6710 community dwelling adults aged 50 years and older (53.6% women, average age 65.9 years, standard deviation 9.4) who provided baseline data in 2004-05.

 

Intervention:

Self-reported receptive arts engagement (going to museums,

art galleries, exhibitions, the theatre, concerts, or the opera).

 

Measurement:

Mortality, measured through data linkage to

the National Health Service central register.

 

Results:

People who engaged with receptive arts activities on an infrequent basis (once or twice a year) had a 14% lower risk of dying at any point during the follow-up (809/3042 deaths, hazard ratio 0.86, 95% confidence interval 0.77 to 0.96) compared with those who never engaged (837/1762 deaths).

People who engaged with receptive arts activities on a frequent basis (every few months or more) had a 31% lower risk of dying (355/1906 deaths, 0.69, 0.59 to 0.80), independent of demographic, socioeconomic, health related, behavioural, and social factors.

Results were robust to a range of sensitivity analyses with no evidence of moderation by sex, socioeconomic status, or social factors.

This study was observational and so causality cannot be assumed.

 

Conclusions:

Receptive arts engagement could have a protective association with longevity in older adults. This association might be partly explained by differences in cognition, mental health, and physical activity among those who do and do not engage in the arts, but remains even when the model is adjusted for these factors.

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The final comment, that “causality cannot be assumed” left me wanting some kind of explanation. As my wife happens to be clairaudient, I asked D, the entity with whom she connects, for an explanation of exactly how arts participation affects longevity …

 

“Any of the arts open the heart, and allows

one to connect with others, with oneself,

with creativity, and sometimes … with

the divine. Connecting is almost a dying

art. People in a (so-called) community

often don’t even know one another.

 

“The arts help facilitate connecting, which is

extremely important to the human, because

humans are creatures that need other humans.

 

“If a human is isolated, they can become lonely,

desperate, suicidal, squirrely, angry, bitter, etc.

These states-of-being actually affect us physically.

The body degenerates and the immune system dimi-

nishes, which leaves us more vulnerable to disease.

 

“Humans need other humans to help solve

problems, to celebrate, to bring joy, to

take care of, and to live successfully.

 

“The arts open our hearts. And when our

hearts are open, we want to create, to con-

nect, to be a part of something. The arts

also cause us to see things differently, and

to then become more oriented to problem-

solving, rather than complaining.

 

“That leads to a more fulfilling life

experience, and we become stronger emo-

tionally and, usually, physically as well.”

 

If you Google “Sustainability,” virtually 100% of the responses focus on energy. Yet, I know – from experience – that I can provide 100% of my electric power (for home and car) using photovoltaic panels.  And PV power is the least expensive form of power.  But I think the reason we’re each here is not to simply diminish our electric power consumption.  It’s to lead as fulfilling a life as we can.  In the words of “First Lady” Eleanor Roosevelt …

 

“The purpose of life is to live it,

to taste experience to the utmost,

to reach out eagerly and without fear,

for newer and richer experience.”

 

This research truly supports the more challenging aspect of “sustainable living” … living as fulfilling a life experience as we can.

 

Some good news!

The Netherlands’ Supreme Court ruled that their government must reduce emissions to 25% below their 1990 level, to support the life quality stated in their constitution.  That squeezes every political party into the corrective action they should have been taking long ago.  The ruling also sets precedent for similar law suits to be filed in other countries.  Here’s a link to the announcement;

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/12/20/win-planet-dutch-supreme-court-issues-landmark-ruling-mandating-climate-action

 

I focus these blogs on things we can do as an individuals. However, if you happen to be involved with any governmental or environmental groups, this is an opportunity to initiate action that will benefit us all.

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