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Embracing Arts And Culture Can Have Wide-Ranging Impact On Health

13th Feb 2020

Improving patient experience is high on the agenda for the NHS – but it is becoming widely acknowledged that artwork in hospitals can improve health and wellbeing by reducing anxiety, stress and depression as well as improving the overall experience of healthcare and social care environment. While artwork can transform stark, clinical walls and corridors, there are other mediums of art such as music, theatre and film that are also being explored.


At MediCinema, we know that giving patients the opportunity to visit an onsite cinema while they’re in hospital helps to improve how they feel, even reducing physical pain for some, while also giving them the opportunity to return to normality with a couple of hours away from the ward. Now, more research is becoming available to evidence how a wide range of arts and culture can have an impact on different areas of health and wellbeing.

Evidence is building to connect arts and culture with improved wellbeing

In the last 12 months, several reports have highlighted evidence of the power of the arts to improve physical and mental health.


  • A new study by WHO Europe: ‘Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report 67 – What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing?’ reveals how a variety of different arts, including film, can make a difference. It found that film and going to the cinema (in the community) had an impact on reducing the risk of developing frailty and a slower rate of frailty progression in older adults, as well as having protective associations with premature mortality.
  • In Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Well Being Report, drafted for The All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health And Wellbeing found that arts engagement can help with the self-management of long term conditions. The committee named health and wellbeing as a priority in its draft strategy for the next 10 years and has been heavily involved in the move toward social prescribing.
  • In a report by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport “Changing Lives: The social impact of participation in culture and sport”, it was recommended that guidance from NHS England on social prescribing must highlight information about the power of the arts and sporting intervention to improve both physical and mental health.


These reports are also throwing a light on the complexities of illness for many patients. As well as dealing with the physical aspects of their condition, this may be accompanied by heightened anxiety, stress or loneliness. Moves toward social prescribing show that sometimes we need more than medicine to help us thrive or recover.


Being in hospital for any length of time is hard. As well as the pain and discomfort, patients can feel cut off from life outside. With less to occupy themselves in hospital, patients’ mental health can deteriorate quickly, and it is very hard for patients to maintain any sense of normality on the ward. MediCinema broadens the traditional hospital experience. As well as offering patients the chance to escape from the physical clinical environment, it also allows them to mentally escape their illness or condition for a few hours. It gives them personal autonomy over how they spend their time, working to replenish the loss of control that comes with ongoing health issues.


Our most recent survey of MediCinema users indicated:

  • 92 per cent of patients feel it improved their wellbeing
  • 92 per cent said it relieved anxiety and stress
  • 94 per cent said it increased relaxation and just over half said it reduced physical pain


Additionally, studies have shown that patient experience has a positive correlation with long-term health outcomes, so an improvement to a hospital stay can have effects further along in a patient’s health journey.


Our cinemas are accessible for everyone, whether they can walk, are in a hospital bed, or attached to a drip. Thanks to our wonderful army of nurses and other volunteers there is always care and support close at hand. As a charity, we work closely with the fundraising arm of trusts to ensure the cinemas are built without any cost to the NHS.


For more information about this and the impact we have for patients, please see: Building Better Healthcare.