How to live longer: ‘Receptive arts’ cuts your risk of death by 30 percent – what is it?

Why do women live longer than men?

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This could ring true if the research by University of College (UCL) London is anything to go by. Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), engagement in the “receptive arts” could prolong longevity. Dr Daisy Fancourt – the lead author of the research – confirmed: “We found that arts engagement could have a protective [effect] in older adults.” A detailed 14-year analysis, cultivated from 6,710 adults aged 50 and over, demonstrated the health benefits of a cultured life.

Delving into the dataset, adults who engaged with the arts on a frequent basis had a 31 percent lower risk of dying compared to those who “never” attended such institutions.

Which institutions count as “receptive arts”?

Dr Fancourt and co-author Professor Andrew Steptoe clarified that the receptive arts included:

  • Theatre-going
  • Concerts
  • Opera
  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Exhibitions.

Professor Steptoe pointed out an assumption that people who attend such events are “wealthier, more mobile, and less depressed” – and this could explain why attendance is related to survival.

However, the “strong association between cultural engagement and survival” remained even when these factors were “taken into account”.

How was engagement with the receptive arts measured?

The frequency of engagement with the receptive arts was categorised as follows:

  • Never
  • Infrequent
  • Frequent.

To fall into the “infrequent” bracket, the study’s participants engaged in receptive arts less than twice per year.

The “frequent” classification was utilised when people attended artistic events every few months, monthly, or more.

Those who engaged with the arts infrequently still experienced greater longevity than those who did not engage at all with such events.

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To illustrate, those who fell into the infrequent category had a 14 percent lower risk of death compared to those who never engaged with the arts.

Dr Fancourt added: “We have seen increasing evidence to show the health benefit of the arts.”

It must be noted that the observational study had some limitations, including the fact that it can’t prove “cause and effect”.

This means greater longevity can’t be attributed to one factor, such as engaging with the arts.

Various factors influence a person’s longevity, as confirmed by the NHS.

This includes warding off disease by not smoking, drinking less than 14 units of alcohol weekly, and exercising everyday for 30 minutes.

The King’s Fund pointed out that a “healthy life expectancy” in the UK for men and women is around 63 years of age.

From this point onwards, the average person would have spent between 16 to 20 years in “not good” health.

This is because the average life expectancy for a man born in England is 79.8 years, whereas women live, on average, until 83.4 years.

The current gender gap between men and women’s longevity has been attributed to mortality rates from Covid.

Other factors for the longevity gender gap include better labour care for women (meaning there’s a lower risk of dying while giving birth) and that more men have smoked historically compared to women.

To make sure the later years of your life are in better health, it’s important to follow the basics of good healthcare immediately.

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