Health and Well-Being
The arts’ impacts on health and well-being can be seen at all stages of life. From early childhood through adolescence and youth, arts education can support the social and emotional needs of students, helping them better to cope with their feelings, to bounce back from adversity, and to show tolerance and compassion for others. For older adults, greater frequency of arts participation has been linked to positive health outcomes. Creative arts therapies and arts-in-health programs can help to address specific physical and mental health conditions, and can improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. In cities, towns, and neighborhoods, meanwhile, arts-based strategies can contribute to greater social cohesion, health equity, and community well-being.
NEA Investments in Arts & Health
The arts and health converge in several places throughout the National Endowment for the Arts’ portfolio—in grantmaking, research, and special programs and partnerships. For more information on these intersections, explore our infographic and learn about these programs in more detail below.
NEA Research Awards
Through the Research Grants in the Arts program and the NEA Research Labs, the agency has supported numerous studies about the arts’ physiological and psychological impacts on health and social and emotional well-being.
Recent Grant Examples:
Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)—To support data analysis and reporting as part of a study examining the role of school-based dance/movement therapy in fostering empathy and multicultural self-efficacy.
Georgetown University (Washington, DC)—To support a study examining whether and how listening to musical performances in an intensive care unit (ICU) can improve patient recovery and healing.
Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, SC)—To support a randomized clinical trial examining the effects of art therapy combined with physical therapy for children undergoing bone marrow transplants.
NEA Research Labs: The Arts, Health, and Social/Emotional Well-Being
These transdisciplinary research teams are grounded in the social and behavioral sciences, yielding empirical insights about the arts. Sustained methods of inquiry into these topic areas will have distinctive benefits for the arts community, but also for sectors such as healthcare.
Recent Grant Example:
The University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine program has partnered with UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program to develop an “EpiArts” Lab, which is undertaking an initial three-year study to explore the impacts of arts and cultural engagement on population health outcomes in the U.S., as well as the mechanisms involved. Another NEA Research Lab, CORAL (Colorado Resiliency Lab), at University of Colorado Denver, is exploring whether and how arts programs and therapies can relieve stress and burnout among healthcare professionals.
The NEA’s creative placemaking grants program, Our Town provides supports activities that integrate arts, culture, and design into local efforts that strengthen communities. Our Town projects advance local economic, physical, or social outcomes in communities, ultimately laying the groundwork for systems change and centering equity. (Our Town: A Framework for Understanding and Measuring the National Endowment for the Arts’ Creative Placemaking Grants Program) Many of these projects fuse arts and design with public health strategies.
Recent Grant Examples:
Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers (San Francisco, CA)—To support multidisciplinary arts activities that address health equity in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. The project will bring together Tenderloin residents and health providers to share stories of trauma through dialogue, storytelling, music, and movement during workshops, community forums, and collaborative site-specific performances, and collected within an audio and video story archive. This project will encourage communication among healthcare providers and low-income Tenderloin residents, as well as between city agencies. It will align with multiple city agency efforts to address health and wellness for housing insecure residents. The project is a partnership of ABD Productions and San Francisco Arts Commission, the city's Planning Commission, Department of Public Health, and University of California San Francisco's Center for Community Engagement.
RiffRaff Arts Collective (Princeton, WV)—To support a series of arts programming that fosters dialog and healing in Princeton, West Virginia. Project activities include the production of music videos, documentary short films, and community conversations. Community members, including youth, will co-create and present artworks at city council meetings as a way to initiate discussions on critical issues facing Princeton, such as homelessness, mental health, and drug abuse. The creative methods of engagement are intended to bring about positive community change and connection, ultimately serving as a model for the region. Project partners include the City of Princeton, Community Connections, West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, and other local nonprofits.
Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Creative Forces seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers.
Creative Forces has three areas of work—clinical, community, and capacity. At military medical and Veterans Health Administration facilities, Creative Forces is placing creative arts therapies—art, music, and dance/movement therapies—at the core of patient-centered care, including telehealth delivery of care for patients in rural and remote areas. Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants support community-based arts programming to address the distinct experiences, challenges, and strengths of military-connected populations through the arts. In addition, Creative Forces is investing in research on the impacts and benefits—physical, social, and emotional—of these innovative treatment methods as well as the development of toolkits, training materials, and other resources to support best practices in serving the target populations.
Visit the Creative Forces National Resource Center to learn more and to read all research associated with Creative Forces.
Sound Health Network
The Sound Health Network (SHN) was established to promote research and public awareness about the impact of music on health and wellness. The network engages with a broad range of multidisciplinary stakeholders—including scientists, music therapists, clinicians, patients, music and arts organizations, funders, and the general public. Through its coordinating role, the SHN facilitates individual and collaborative efforts that promote the quality, quantity, and relevance of research at the intersections of music, neuroscience, health, and wellness across the lifespan, advancing the potential of music to improve all our lives.
SHN is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts with the University of California, San Francisco in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Renée Fleming, the center’s artistic advisor.
Arts & Human Development Task Force
From 2011 to 2023, the NEA convened a Federal Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development to encourage more and better research on how the arts can help people reach their full potential at all stages of life. Task force members represented multiple units across federal government, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education, among others. The Task Force conducted a series of public webinars on compelling research and practices. Additionally, the group collaborated on reports, research announcements, and convenings about the arts and human development, including Arts Strategies for Addressing the Opioid Crisis: Examining the Evidence.
Related Arts and Health News
- National Endowment for the Arts Announces More Than $750,000 in Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants
- New Report Examines the Role of Arts and Culture in Fostering Social Cohesion and Community Well-Being
- New Report from the National Endowment for the Arts Shows the Arts Can Be Significant Tool in Fight Against Opioid Abuse
At the Intersection of Arts and Public Health: Ask the Question Engages the Arts in Suicide Prevention
Ask the Question is an Oregon-based public health and art initiative that explores the topic of suicide—and how creative expression can play a role in stopping such tragedies before they start.
Sarah Whalen-Lunn on the Healing Power of Indigenous Tattooing
Traditional tattoo artist Sarah Whalen-Lunn talks about her journey to learning indigenous tattooing and its importance to the cultural health of her community.
Podcast with Dr. Nina Kraus
Music on the brain: Dr Nina Kraus explores the science of sound
NEA staff have also served in an advisory capacity on the following resources and opportunities:
“The NeuroArts Blueprint: Advancing the Science of Arts, Health, and Wellbeing,” an initiative of Johns Hopkins University’s International Arts + Mind Lab and the Aspen Institute
The Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education (FRAHME), an initiative of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Engaging the Arts to Build Vaccine Confidence—This report outlines the impact of a collaboration among the NEA, CDC, and CDC Foundation to support organizations using the arts and culture to educate local communities about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Well-Being, a report from the Global Council on Brain Health, a collaborative from AARP.
The NEA is a federal partner on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Federal Plan for Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience