New British study proves the benefits of the Arts in treating patients with debilitating mental disease.

A soon-to-be-published study, Reawakening the Mind, has confirmed what we all knew to be true – the mind-body benefit of artistic stimulation. UK organisation Arts 4 Dementia offers statistical proof of the transforming power of the arts in treating patients suffering from memory loss. This latest discovery affirms the health benefits of arts therapies when applied to early dementia sufferers.

A sample group of 41 early dementia sufferers, aged between 66 and 91, participated in workshops in music, drama, poetry, dance, photography and painting. The study assessed the effectiveness of each arts activity in improving cognitive function and wellbeing.

Enhanced cognitive ability, stress relief, and a decrease in memory problems were just some of the reported benefits. With each individual participating in at least one activity, the 93 assessments were condensed into the following heartening findings:

  • 94% of people with dementia were energised, unstressed, happy and alert for at least 24 hours after an arts session.
  • 89% claimed to feel more confident.
  • 84% of people with dementia recognised that they had learned new skills.

As a result of the sessions 97% of patients recognised that creative activity overrides memory worries and an impressive 99% of participants planned to develop their art further.

Results of the evaluation, overseen by Professor Paul Camic, Professor of Psychology and Public Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, indicated many positive effects for people with early dementia. “The results from this large-scale evaluation of many different arts-based projects strongly support that participating in the arts in group settings – in different ways and through different media – benefit people with dementia, the people who care for them, and the organisations that offer these programmes, in a significant and profound way”, he reported.

While visual arts generated the greatest immediate sense of achievement it was music and dance that demonstrated a significantly longer energising effect than other art forms, with the results concluding that art practices can combat many of the most difficult effects of early dementia. The results also suggest that arts activity can delay onset.

Reawakening the Mind is one of the first studies to develop a multiple art form model of stimulation activities for people in the early stages of dementia. Arts 4 Dementia Chief Executive, Veronica Franklin Gould, says: Once dementia has set in, the creative part of the brain can continue to function for many more years and artistic stimulation is a powerful, sociable way to open up communication channels.”

Whilst acknowledging the need for training accreditation in these fields, Arts 4 Dementia are calling on arts organisations to provide practitioners and appealing to doctors to recommend arts activities for patients upon diagnosis.