Social activities linked to improved mental health

Spending a day at a museum or going to the theatre could protect the mind from depression, a new study has revealed.

The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that regular “cultural engagement” could improve an individual’s overall mental health.

Researchers from University College London looked at the data of more than 2,000 adults over the age of 50, comparing their activity level to their mental wellbeing.

They found that those who attended exhibitions, watched films at the cinema or went to the theatre at least once a month were 48 per cent less likely to develop depression.

Significantly, even attending an event once every few months lowered the risk of developing depression by a third (32 per cent).

Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: “Generally speaking, people know the benefits of eating their five-a-day and of exercise for their physical and mental health, but there is very little awareness that cultural activities also have similar benefits.

“Notably we find the same relationship between cultural engagement and depression amongst those of high and low wealth and of different levels of education, the only thing that differs is the frequency of participation.”

She added that attending events, such as going to the cinema, can stimulate social interaction and creativity, which are known to improve mental wellbeing.

However, experts warned that social activities alone might not be enough to treat depression, and alternative approaches, such as therapy and medication, may be the best approach to improving mental health.

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