Three recent studies, one misleading headline! But hey, here's some good news for art lovers who are: male, elderly, or depressed.
DUDES: A study has found that cultured men who go to museums, ballet and theater are happier than their philistine counterparts. Partaking in the arts correlates to lower levels of stress and improved mental health, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology learned.
Cuypers his colleagues collected data on the activities, life satisfaction, perceived health, anxiety and depression of 50,797 adult residents of Nord-Trondelag County in central Norway. Controlling for factors such as income and education, the researchers found that cultural participation is good for well-being for both genders.
"Men seemed to get more of a percieved health benefit from being involved in different receptive cultural activites than women did," [study author Koenraad] Cuypers said, adding that in both genders, there was a dose-response effect: The more activities a person participated in, the happier they tended to be.
DEMENTIA PATIENTS: Art therapy can make a difference in reducing the passivity of dementia patients, researchers at Maryville University in Missouri learned. Asking dementia patients to create paintings, drawings and mosaics resulted in them being more engaged and social, despite their characteristic withdrawal that the illness causes. Art had a different effect on the patients than typical nursing home activities like card games and bingo, says Ashlyn Cunningham, an assistant professor at Maryville.
"Giving them different opportunities to express and experience the art was one of the benefits versus playing a game or playing bingo, which is very structured," Cunningham said. "Art is more individualized and more tailored to having the client express themselves however they choose to."
DEPRESSED PEOPLE: Not only can art make you happy, but looking at art stimulates the same parts of our brain that are active when we fall in love. According to Semir Zeki, professor of neuroesthetics at University College London, viewing a "beautiful" work of art causes the brain to release dopamine, the chemical that gives us the feeling of love and happiness. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but examples of art that will leave us lovestruck in the video clip below include Cezanne's "Mount Sainte-Victoir" and Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."