Art does more than just hang around on walls
Regardless of whether you’re an avid collector or just enjoy a good painting, admiring art is good for your health and has no known harmful side effects!
Professor Grossi of the University of Milan and his team conducted an experimental evaluation of the impact of aesthetic experiences. They specifically focused on the impact looking at artwork has on stress and general wellbeing.
Their research found that looking at art in the vault of the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, Italy reduced participants cortisol levels by an astonishing 60%. Cortisol is a hormone which is mainly released during times of stress. It is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of each kidney. It is released in response to threats and stressful situations.
To measure this response researchers took samples of participants saliva before and after witnessing the artwork.
Experiencing the artwork in the vault of the Sanctuary of Vicoforte reduced participants stress levels by over half. In addition to the decrease in cortisol present in participants saliva, 90% of participants reported feeling better after looking at the artwork.
Speaking to The Daily Mail Professor Grossi commented, “The idea of art therapy is not new. But this is the first time that the beneficial effect of art on health has been measured.”
Similarly, a study conducted by the University of Westminster found that stress levels decreased after lunchtime visits to an art gallery. Participants of this study self reported their stress levels before and after a 35 minute tour of the gallery and also had lower levels of cortisol.
Artwork hanging on walls has also been thought to improve moral in the workplace. It is thought the artwork encourages right brain activity through visual stimulation, resulting in increased productivity.
In addition to reducing stress looking at art stimulates the senses and provokes emotional responses. It introduces new ideas and encourages debate, opening our eyes to what is around us. Artwork has the ability to show us what is possible and inspires us to try.
Art exercises the mind by connecting synapses. It brings people together through lively debate. Art is good for the heart and soul. In short, art is good for our health and has no known harmful side effects.
It turns out gazing at beautiful artwork is not just good for your soul but your physical health too.
The Scientific Abstract by Professor Grossi
We provide an experimental evaluation of the impact of aesthetic experiences in terms of stress reduction (cortisol levels) and wellbeing increase. The test experience is a visit to the vault of the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, Italy. Data have been collected using a double step method. A structured interview in relation to the individual subjective wellbeing has been submitted to a sample of 100 subjects. In addition, a sample of their saliva has been taken, and its cortisol level measured, before and after the experience, and likewise for momentary wellbeing measured on a Visual Analogous Scale (VAS). Subjects reported an average increase of 40% in wellbeing and a decrease of the 60% in the cortisol level. The recorded cortisol level drop values are well beyond the decrease normally associated to its circadian cycle. The modulating role of various variables has been appreciated, and profiling of the typical subjects who are wellbeing respondents/non-respondents and cortisol respondents/non-respondents has been carried out. We conclude that aesthetic experience seems to have a noticeable impact on individual physical and mental health. The study underlines the potential of the arts and culture as a new platform for public health practices and new approaches to welfare policy design.