Healthy Attendance? The Impact of Cultural Engagement and Sports Participation on Health and Satisfaction with Life in Scotland

Data from the Scottish Household Survey 2011 has been used to statistically explore the relationship between taking part in cultural and sporting activities, attending cultural places and key quality of life measures in Scotland. This report presents the findings of the analysis of this relationship.

2 Introduction

2.1 The Scottish Government is committed to promoting and supporting sport and cultural activities because it recognises and values the potential benefits that sport and culture bring, not only to individuals but to our communities. Evidence suggests that cultural engagement impacts positively on our general wellbeing and helps to reinforce our resilience in difficult times. Cultural participation is known to bring benefits in learning and education and there is evidence from international studies of an association with good health and satisfaction with life.

2.2 Participation in sport is a key route for many of maintaining physical activity levels. The evidence base for the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity is now extensive and guidelines on the recommended amount and type of activity for all age groups were issued by the four UK Chief Medical Officers in 2011.

2.3 The Scottish Household Survey is the primary source of statistical data on cultural attendance and sporting participation in Scotland and it is the only source of data on attendance and participation at local authority level. Questions on cultural attendance and sporting participation were introduced in the SHS for the first time in 2007. The SHS is the data source for the relevant National Indicator on culture introduced in Scotland's National Performance Framework in 2011: Increase Cultural Engagement.

2.4 The Scottish Household Survey indicates that levels of cultural engagement in Scotland are high, with 87% of adults either attending a cultural place or participating in a cultural activity in 2011, up from 85% in 2010. Three quarters of adults reported participating in sport, including walking, at least once in the previous four weeks in 2011. When walking was excluded, just over half of adults (54%) had undertaken at least one of the remaining sports activities in the last four weeks.

2.5 Beneath these headline figures for adult participation in culture and sport, there is considerable variation in participation by different groups. Clear patterns in particular are evident for varying participation by age, gender, household income and area deprivation (Scottish Government, 2012).

2.6 Participation in both cultural and sporting activities generally declines with age. Sports participation and cultural engagement levels are highest in the highest household income groups in Scotland and decline to be lowest in the lowest household income groups. Similarly, adult participation in cultural and sporting activities varies by area deprivation, with participation increasing as area deprivation decreases. Details on these varying participation levels are reported in the annual Scottish Household Survey Chapter on Culture and Sport.


Email: Dr Niamh O'Connor

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