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First evidence that prescribing arts schemes can benefit patients

Seven year study analyses the use of prescribing art schemes in south west England.

‘Prescribing Arts’ schemes support the management of mental well-being in primary care, but there is little evidence on the effect. This study reports on one scheme in south west England over seven years (2009-2016).

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GPs and other health professionals could refer patients to an artist delivered programme in a GP surgery over eight or ten weeks. A range of arts – mosaics, painting, poetry – were offered. Among the 1297 patients referred, the most frequent reason was to reduce stress/anxiety/depression.

The majority were women, over 50 and from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Of people referred, 35% (440) did not take up the referral and 51.7% (651) completed the course. Of those that attended 75% were rated as engaged by the artist.

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) was completed pre- and post-course. A significant increase in well-being was found in those people that completed and/or were rated as engaged. A subset (103) self-reported multiple health conditions. The majority of these completed the course and were rated as engaged (80% and 81% respectively). They reported a significant increase in well-being although it was smaller than for the total group.

This study provides the first evidence of effect for those who attend and complete an arts course, including those with multi-morbidities.

Crone DM, Sumner RC, Baker CM et al (2018) 'Artlift' arts-on-referral intervention in UK primary care: updated findings from an ongoing observational study. European Journal of Public Health. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky021.


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