The arts and their impact on health and wellbeing

Arts and Youth and Mental Health

The arts are linked to health and well-being in cultural practices and societies around the world. In addition to the lived experience of those people making art, research supports this assertion. The impacts of the arts on youth mental health are particularly striking. As Dr. Tiina Kukkonen states,

"Given that most mental illnesses have their onset in adolescence and early adulthood, a main focus of mental health promotion is the early prevention and/or treatment of unhealthy behaviours. The need for diverse mental health supports for children and youth is therefore critical. Arts-based interventions and programming have been successful in fostering positive youth mental health in the past and offer a wealth of possibilities for present and future support." (Kukkonen)

Research shows impacts in four main areas of youth mental health:

  1. relieving stress and promoting mindfulness,
  2. building resilience,
  3. developing, exploring and empowering identities
  4. enhancing social connectedness and inclusion.

For more details in this research, and the various factors at play for teaching artists and youth engaging in art, read on at here.


Mental Health and the Arts Resources

Here are some new resources that we recommend for learning about and implementing arts practices to address mental health challenges in your community.

Your Brain On Art: Authors Susan Magsamen (founder and executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins Medicine's Pedersen Brain Science Institute) and Ivy Ross's new book on how making and experiencing art can help us flourish. 

The Canadian New Music Network has released a series of videos profiling what creating music in rehabilitation and incarceration looks like with four different musicians across Canada.

The Health Arts Research Centre offer free worksheets which include arts activities for all ages, groups of different sizes, with the common goal of talking about and sharing wellness with all those involved. 

Additional articles and research about youth, arts and mental health:

Supporting Youth Mental Health with Arts Based Strategies: A Global Perspective.

Building Mental Wellness in Youth People through the Power of the Arts

Lethbridge Youth Art Show inspired by Mental Health.