Theatre trips cut the risk of early death by 30%, study shows

Want to live for longer? Go to the theatre or a museum once a month: Scientists find it may cut your risk of dying in the next 12 years by 30%

  • A study asked more than 6,000 over 50s in England  about their leisure activity
  • Regular visits to museums, art galleries or concerts improved life longevity
  • It adds to research which shows arts improves mental and physical health

Going to the theatre once every month may slash your risk of a premature death, a study claims.

University College London researchers tracked nearly 7,000 adults over the age of 50 for 12 years.

Volunteers who engaged with the arts every few months were 14 per cent less likely to die by the end of the study.

Visiting museums, theatres, art galleries more frequently – once a month – cut the risk by 31 per cent, results showed.  

The research adds to evidence that engaging in art, whether playing the didgeridoo or admiring paintings, can benefit your health.

A theatre trip every month could slash your risk of dying by 30 per cent in the next 12 years, a study of more than 6,700 over 50-year-olds in England found

Academics were unable to prove going to the theatre regularly was the cause of the reduced risk because the study was merely observational.

However, they believe that a night to the West End or just a local theatre could improve mental health and encourage physical activity.

Although, the link between longevity and engaging in the arts remained even when mental health and physical activity were taken into account.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said further trials are needed to work out how going to the theatre could prevent an early death. 

Frequency of art activities, including going to the opera, was measured at the start of the study in 2004-5.


Didgeridoo lessons, choir singing and calligraphy can each benefit health, according to a major review that was published last month.

For the first time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) looked at the ways in which the arts can prevent and treat illness.

Among those which showed ‘a robust impact of the arts’ on health’ included dance for PTSD to relive tension in muscles and group-knitting to encourage socialising in dementia patients.

Some art interventions, the WHO claimed, show comparable or stronger effects than medication or exercise.

Participants were followed up for an average of 12 years, using NHS data to work out whether they had died. 

Of the 6,710 participants, a third of them (2,001) died. Results were published in the Christmas edition of the British medical Journal. 

‘Overall, our results highlight the importance of continuing to explore new social factors as core determinants of health,’ Dr Fancourt said.

This is the first time research has suggested engaging in the arts may halt an early death. 

Previous studies have shown those who get involved have improved physical and mental health.

A review of research published in November 2019 by the World Health Organisation, showed that art is valuable for an array of health problems. 

The growing evidence supports social prescribing schemes – a crucial part of UK government health policy.

In a linked editorial, Nicola Gill, a GP based in Yorkshire, said: ‘Is it magical realism to imagine a resource commonly available in homes and communities could improve life expectancy? 

‘This research is not magical, but very real; it adds to our understanding of the health benefits of the arts and raises important questions for further research.’  

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