Overall Participation in Culture and Sport
4.1 The analysis found that, after controlling for other factors including socio-economic factors, participation in culture and sport are independently and significantly associated with good health and high life satisfaction.
4.2 Figure 5, below, depicts the relationship between participation and health and life satisfaction. To explain the odds ratio graph, the line across the ratio at 1 would indicate an equal chance of the outcome (good health and high life satisfaction) regardless of whether the respondent participated in culture and sport or not. If the columns rise above this line, this is evidence of a higher likelihood that the outcome of good health and high life satisfaction is achieved in those who participate compared to those who do not participate.
4.3 The analysis of the relationship between the dependent variables [health and satisfaction with life] and independent variables [participation in cultural activities; attendance at cultural places or events; participation in sport] after taking into account other factors such as age, area deprivation, highest education qualification, household economic status, annual income of random adult, disability/illness and smoking, found the following significant results:
- Those who attended a cultural place or event were over 59% more likely (odds ratio 1.592) to have reported good health compared to those who did not attend any cultural place or event in the last 12 months.
- Those who participated in cultural activities were nearly 38% more likely (odds ratio 1.378) to have reported good health than those who did not participate in any cultural activity in the last 12 months.
- Those who participated in cultural activities were 30% more likely (odds ratio 1.304) to have reported they were satisfied with their lives, compared to those who did not participate in any cultural activity in the last 12 months.
- Those who attended a cultural place or event over one and a half times more likely (odds ratio 1.523) to have reported high life satisfaction, compared to those who did not attend any cultural place or event in the last 12 months.
- Those who participated in sport were nearly twice more likely (odds ratio 1.987) to have rated their health as good compared to those who did not participate in sport in the last 4 weeks.
- Those who participated in sport were over one and a half times more likely (odds ratio 1.517) to have reported high life satisfaction, compared to those who did not participate in sport in the last 4 weeks.
Participation in Specific Cultural Activities
4.4 Further analysis was carried out to identify any association between participation in individual cultural activities and health and life satisfaction.
4.5 Table 1 presents the full results of the analysis of associations (accounting for control factors). Participation in some individual creative and cultural activities - eg performing with an audience and crafts - was associated with good health. Reading for pleasure and dance participation were significantly associated with good health. Dancing has the strongest association with self-assessed health. Those who participated in dancing were 62% more likely (odds ratio 1.62) to report good health than those who did not participate in dance in the previous 12 months.
4.6 A wider range of individual cultural participation activities, including dance, playing/writing music and photography, were found to have an association with high life satisfaction, though the relationships were not statistically significant at the 5% level (Table 1).
4.7 Attendance at individual cultural places and events was also found to be associated with both good health and high life satisfaction.
4.8 Significant associations were found between health and attendance at cinema, art exhibitions, craft exhibitions, street art and theatre.
4.9 There is also a relationship between attendance at individual cultural places and high life satisfaction, with significant associations found for attendance at museums, cinema, historical places and ballet/dance. So, for example:
- those who visited a museum were 37% more likely (odds ratio 1.37) to report high life satisfaction that those who did not visit;
- those who visited the cinema were 44% more likely (odds ratio 1.435) to report high life satisfaction that those who did not visit;
- those who visited a historical or archaeological place were over 50% more likely (odds ratio 1.52) to report high life satisfaction that those who did not visit;
- those who attended a ballet or dance performance were over twice as likely to report high life satisfaction (odds ratio 2.249) that those who did not. (Table 1)
|Variable||Self-rated Health||Satisfaction with life|
|Perform with audience||1.53||0.94||2.47||0.086||1.33||0.69||2.57||0.401|
|Read for pleasure||1.33||1.11||1.59||0.002||1.21||0.97||1.50||0.085|
|Exhibit/ collection of art||1.31||1.01||1.69||0.045||0.98||0.70||1.38||0.922|
|Live music event||1.22||1.00||1.50||0.054||1.24||0.95||1.62||0.110|
4.10 The findings presented above show that overall participation in culture and sport, and participation in certain individual cultural activities, is associated with good self-assessed health and high life satisfaction, even after accounting for other known relevant factors. This is the first time this analysis has been carried out at a population level in Scotland. The findings are consistent with a growing body of population level studies on the impact of engagement in culture on key quality of life measures. For example, the association between cultural attendance and health has also been found in studies in Sweden (Bygren, 2009); Norway (Cuypers, 2011) and Finland (Hyppa, 2006).
4.11 Being cross-sectional, this study cannot determine causal relationships. Further longitudinal and experimental design studies would be required to explore causality. Further cross-sectional research could also be carried out on the effect of frequency of participation in culture and sport on quality of life measures. The Understanding Society longitudinal study has a robust sample size in Scotland and includes measures of engagement in culture and sport and measures of health and life satisfaction. Further research could be carried out using longitudinal data from Understanding Society to explore the direction of causality.
4.12 Longitudinal research in other countries has found some evidence that points to a causal relationship between engagement in culture and health (eg Bygren, 2009). Studies have also found that this effect is transient, suggesting continual engagement in culture is required to produce positive effects (Johansson et al, 2001).
4.12 The findings of this study add weight to the argument that national exercises designed to measure overall wellbeing should include measures of the extent to which the population take part in culture and sport. The ONS Measuring National Wellbeing programme added measures on culture and sport participation in its recent review. Scotland's National Performance Framework - Scotland Performs - added two new relevant National Indicators in its 2011 refresh - Increase Cultural Engagement and Increase Physical Activity.
4.13 These developments, and this research, support a holistic understanding of quality of life that acknowledges that wellbeing, as well as being related to major factors like employment, health and age, is also associated with participation in culture and sport.
Email: Dr Niamh O'Connor