Johansson, Konlaan and Bygren, 2001

In 1990–1, 3,793 of the initial random sample of subjects from the 1982–3 Swedish Survey of Living Conditions were re-interviewed using the same questionnaire. In this study, self-reported health status was taken as the main outcome measure, categorised as good, poor or somewhere in between, the latter two of which were grouped into the ‘poor’ category. Control variables were: age, type of residence (rented or owned), geographical region of domicile (metropolis, municipality, small town/rural) and socio-economic status (via educational level). Independent variables comprised reading, music-making and attendance at: cinemas, theatres, concerts, museums and art exhibitions. A longitudinal transitional model was analysed using logistic regression.

The researchers acknowledged that a change in health status could affect both self-reported health and cultural attendance (in either direction). Low self-rated health was found to correspond with poor education, older age and low urbanisation. Music-making and reading did not have any significant effect upon self-reported health. Taking account of all the variables, those participants whose cultural attendance was low at both interview dates or had decreased between the two interview dates reported lower perceived health. The converse was also true – those participants whose cultural attendance was high at both interview dates or had increased between the two dates reported higher perceived health. The researchers concluded that cultural stimulation was transient, a ‘perishable commodity’ that needed replenishing if good perceived health was to be maintained over a long period. Again, the possibility of establishing a causal connection between cultural participation and (self-rated) health was rejected.

In framing these results, the team lingered on tension reduction and the possible psychological mechanisms through which this might operate. As before, attention was paid to psychoanalytic, arousal and communicative theories. Similarly, space was dedicated to psycho-neuroimmunological theories, including the innervation of lymphoid organs and the release of appropriate neurotransmitters, offering protection from infections and perhaps also autoimmune diseases. Again, the HPA axis was looked to as a possible beneficiary of environmental enrichment in the defence against depression.

Sven-Erik Johansson, Boinkum Benson Konlaan and Lars Olov Bygren, ‘Sustaining habits of attending cultural events and maintenance of health’, Health Promotion International, 16, no. 3, 2001, pp. 229–34.

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