I’ll be blunt. Some things in this world come with an easy way to measure their impact: art is not one of these things. Not only are there social and political benefits to art, but there are also economic, mental, and aesthetic benefits. The layers of uses is only compounded by the layers of styles.
Ask any artist and you’ll discover that art comes in dozens of forms, highlighting the fact that this term is cleverly simple; we all know what art is, but we may think of different things when hearing the word (I think of music – what did you think of?).
Despite the difficulty in understanding how art’s influence, let’s see what we can do. Tell you what – for ease’s sake, let’s focus on health, shall we?
Music - Performed, written, and played
Because of my bias, let’s start with music.
As we’ve discussed in the past, we already know music provides an interesting, effective, and unique approach to certain diseases like autism and cancer. Music therapists, after assessment of the patient, determine what form of music therapy will be most effective at treating whatever ailment they may have. There is strong attention on beats and rhythm, largely because our brain and vital organs often mimic both, leading to an inducement of calming, meditative states or excited, energetic ones.
Our blood pressure, blood temperature, and brain activity are all influenced by the tunes, and research supports the claim that music can actually help better the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of our brain, boosting our immune system. In relation, physicians also see benefits in the cardiovascular system (like those benefits above), namely with the reduction in demand for myocardial oxygen.
Finally, mood also benefits from music. With a better regulated physiological system, our mood follows suit. Those distressed with life, operations, and pain often find some form of solace in writing, listening, or playing music. Anxiety levels become balanced in tandem with vital organs. Essentially, as the body becomes less stressed, so does the mind.
Interestingly enough, the benefits to music also translate to the practitioners. According to a review of medical literature from 1990-2004, Dr. Rosalia Lelchuk Staricoff determined that music showed “statistically significant improvement in clinical and behavioral states” in neonatal care (newborns).
In addition to music, other forms of art – like painting, films, or photography – have shown equally drastic health benefits. According to the same study by Dr. Staricoff, it was found that visual art helped with both anxiety and depression in cancer patients during chemotherapy. Used simultaneously with other treatments, it helped avert negative side effects of the treatment, she argued.
For a host of other medical procedures, other positive effects were found in Staricoff’s review. In some interventions, this art helped control blood pressure levels and reduce levels of cortisol in the patients (a physiological indicator of stress).
Finally, even surgeries have benefits from the use of visual arts. When self-selected by the patient, visual arts helped reduce stress and anxiety, helping to control vital signs more effectively.
Art in Hospitals
Considering these benefits, I argue in support of art in hospitals. Just as Florence Nightingale saw the decrepit medical system in England and sought to improve upon it, we should do the same here. Lucky for us, we now have top-quality facilities with equally fantastic care providers.
A little music, color, and comfort never hurt though.