Bonus of mu­seum visit? You might live longer.

Orlando Sentinel - - HEALTH & FITNESS -

of the Opera.”

But Step­toe said re­searchers the­o­rized that peo­ple who ex­pose them­selves to the arts are likely to be more en­gaged in the world.

“We know that a sense of pur­pose in life is im­por­tant,” he said. “Be­ing in­volved and ex­cited by the arts keeps and main­tains your pur­pose in life.”

The study also noted that en­gag­ing in the arts can re­duce lone­li­ness, pro­mote em­pa­thy and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, and keep peo­ple from be­com­ing seden­tary — all fac­tors that con­trib­ute to a longer life.

Many stud­ies have ex­am­ined the pos­i­tive ef­fects of the arts on older peo­ple.

Amer­i­cans older than 55 who did not cre­ate art or go to con­certs, mu­se­ums or plays re­ported higher rates of hy­per­ten­sion and cog­ni­tive de­cline than those who did, ac­cord­ing to a study of nearly 1,500 par­tic­i­pants re­leased by the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts in 2017.

The Lon­don study is be­lieved to be the first com­pre­hen­sive ex­am­i­na­tion of the ef­fects of art on mor­tal­ity, Step­toe said.

From 2004 to 2005, re­searchers col­lected data from 6,710 peo­ple who re­sponded to ques­tion­naires about how of­ten they went to con­certs, mu­se­ums, gal­leries, the the­ater or the opera.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion such as age, gen­der, eth­nic­ity, mar­i­tal sta­tus, ed­u­ca­tional back­ground, pro­fes­sion and in­come, par­tic­i­pants an­swered ques­tions about their phys­i­cal and men­tal health, how of­ten they smoked or drank, and how much ex­er­cise they got.

Over the next 14 years, about 2,000 par­tic­i­pants died — a vast ma­jor­ity of them from ill­nesses re­lated to can­cer, car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease, res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems and other nat­u­ral causes, ac­cord­ing to the study.

“This study raises a num­ber of fu­ture re­search ques­tions,” the au­thors wrote. For ex­am­ple, fu­ture stud­ies could con­sider how en­gage­ment in the arts from a young age might af­fect a per­son’s life span.

The study also did not ex­am­ine whether there was any over­lap with par­tic­i­pants who ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in art, as by play­ing mu­sic, danc­ing or paint­ing.

Still, the re­sults of the study ex­cited art and the­ater ad­vo­cates who said they hoped the re­search would mo­ti­vate a push to re­store arts and mu­sic pro­grams that have been cut from schools around the coun­try over the years.

“So much of that has been de­stroyed,” said Heather A. Hitchens, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can The­ater Wing, which funds a wide range of pro­duc­tions and pro­grams.

“Too of­ten, the arts are seen as this frill, but they re­ally do play an es­sen­tial role in our lives,” Hitchens said. “Now we have a study telling us it helps us live longer. It’s just yet the lat­est ex­am­ple of how pow­er­ful the arts are.”

Ad­vo­cates said the study was also a re­minder of how crit­i­cal it is for the arts to be more ac­ces­si­ble to Amer­i­cans of all in­comes.

Gabriella Souza, a spokeswoma­n for the Wal­ters Art Mu­seum in Bal­ti­more, said the study’s re­sults were not sur­pris­ing.

“In terms of find­ing peace and tran­quil­ity in gal­leries, that is one of the rea­sons peo­ple come to our mu­se­ums,” she said.

The mu­seum, which of­fers free ad­mis­sion and gets about 160,000 vis­i­tors a year, re­cently sur­veyed vis­i­tors about why they come. Twenty per­cent said for “peace and re­ju­ve­na­tion,” Souza said.

“It’s a real tes­ta­ment to how im­por­tant ex­po­sure re­ally is,” she said. “You need to be able to ac­cess art to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

JOHN J. KIM/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Vis­i­tors make their way through the Andy Warhol ex­hibit at the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago. A study finds that mu­seum vis­i­tors tend to live longer.

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