Art and culture increase wellbeing and improve one’s health in several ways.
“Cultural wellbeing as a term is new and it can be considered as a phenomenon” states the executive producer at City of Oulu, Jaana Potkonen.
The term, cultural wellbeing, refers to an individual or a shared experience in which culture and art increase one’s wellbeing. Central to the terms is the idea of culture in everyday life and one’s active participation in culture and art.
In Oulu, Culture Reaches Young Citizens
Art and culture have several wellbeing benefits. Potkonen points out choir practice as an example.
“Taking part in choir practice strengthens one’s social relationships and their sense of community. Singing, on the other hand, influences the body’s physiological qualities such as breathing and circulation. Music itself affects us in many ways, including by activating neural pathways in the brain, improving memory, as well as by raising one’s mood.”
Within the concept of cultural wellbeing, the individual is seen as the experiencer, as well as the actor of culture who has cultural needs and rights. Fulfilling these needs creates cultural wellbeing.
Participation to culture can imply the consumption of culture, such as taking part in various art and cultural events or services, and the creation of art in their own terms.
“In Oulu, there has been success in making culture accessible, especially for children and young people. However, groups still exist within which there is more to do regarding accessibility. These groups include elderly immigrants and elderly people living alone.”
Art Supports the Local Economy
Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2026 together with 32 other Northern municipalities. Oulu2026 wants to bring more culture and wellbeing to the North, to create new jobs and to develop the Northern region.
“The title of European Capital of Culture would have a massive impact on Oulu. It would increase art and cultural offerings at multiple levels.”
According to previous investigations, the title of European Capital of Culture creates economic impact through a significant increase in tourism, in addition to other things. The multiplicative effect of the project, however, does have a wider meaning. In general, art and culture have noticeable economic impacts on public spending.
“The savings coming from art become visible in the long term. Art is able to prevent mental health issues and increase mental wellbeing” says Potkonen.
With Art, We Are Saving on Health Care
Artistic means can influence, for example, loneliness which is a risk factor for wellbeing that exposes one to mental health issues. The majority of art activities have a positive effect in strengthening the sense of community and friendship.
Research has shown that the impact of art and culture on individuals create savings in the costs of health care and social services, including reduced general doctor visits, shorter hospital stays, and increased wellbeing at work.
Potkonen sees the future of Oulu regarding culture as developing and diverse.
“Culture creates a good atmosphere in Oulu where art and culture will be everyone’s thing.”
First published in Mun Oulu-kaupunkimedia, 4.1.2021
Written by Sanna Roukala