Centre for Performance Science awarded £1m for HEartS project

Tuesday 28 February 2017


A joint venture between the Royal College of Music (RCM) and Imperial has been awarded £1 million for a new research project on the arts and health.

The Health, Economic and Social impact of arts engagement (HEartS) project at the Centre for Performance Science, a cross-institutional partnership between the RCM and Imperial College London, will explore the impact of the arts and culture on health and wellbeing, from individual, social, and economic perspectives.

One area the team will study is the link between cultural pursuits - like joining a choir, learning an instrument, or attending art classes - and the health and wellbeing of society. The work will be funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Previously, smaller arts intervention studies have found links between cultural participation, good health, and lower mortality. However, to date there have been few larger-scale studies involving the arts across the UK. The study will gather new empirical and qualitative data from people over three years.

RCM Professor Aaron Williamon, principal investigator of the project, said: “We are keen to discover not only the effects of culture on health and happiness, but why those effects happen. For example, joining a choir after work may improve your health, but is that the result of socialising, creating something, or a combination of the two? Why might joining a choir have more social and creative benefits than going for a meal with friends?'

Other cultural pursuits the researchers will explore include going to museums, galleries, and concerts.

Professor Robert Perneczky, co-investigator of the study from Imperial’s School of Public Health and the University of Munich, said: “We are interested in what hidden benefits the arts and culture may have in terms of improving health. If there are tangible benefits, there may be a case to be made for integrating them more fully within social and health services. It be will interesting to see if arts and culture can increase our resilience against age-associated changes of wellbeing and cognitive performance, a phenomenon known as cognitive reserve.”

The world-famous Centre for Performance Science is home to researchers investigating the psychological, developmental and social sciences of music, including music’s impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing. The Centre itself draws on its members’ expertise in the arts, medicine, engineering, natural sciences, and business from across the RCM and Imperial.

Find out more about the HEartS project on Imperial College’s website.

Image © Imperial College London/Thomas Angus

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