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Arts in care homes improve residents’ health, wellbeing, and quality of life

Curtis A, Gibson L, O’Brien M, Roe B. Systematic review of the impact of arts for health activities on health, wellbeing and quality of life of older people living in care homes Dementia. 2018; 17(6): 645-669.

Review question

      What is the impact of arts on older adults who reside in care homes?


      As the aging population increases, it is likely that the number of individuals who require long-term care will also rise.

      Care homes are facilities offering varying levels of support to those who require nursing care or assistance carrying out activities of daily living.

      Residents of care homes are diverse and often have chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, the physical and social changes associated with transitioning to a care home put residents at increased risk of developing depression and loneliness.

      While care homes often adequately respond to the physical needs of residents, studies suggest that long-term care should incorporate a more holistic approach to meet the psychological and social needs of its residents.

      Research has shown that participation in arts-based activities can help residents maintain quality of life, health, and wellbeing. Benefits to older adults have been reported in terms of behaviour, psychological functioning, cognition, social relationships and overall health.

      The aim of this systematic review was to synthesize the existing studies which have evaluated the impact of arts on older adults who reside in care homes.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a search of eight research databases for English-language studies published before December of 2016.

      Additional hand-searching of reference lists from systematic reviews and relevant papers was also conducted.

      Key words like dance therapy, music therapy, art therapy, life story, life review, and life narrative were used to find appropriate results.

      A total of 1,091 studies were identified from the search, among which 74 articles were included in this review.

      No specific funding source was reported by review authors.

What the researchers found

      Overall there was mixed evidence for the benefit of arts-based activities within care home populations.

      Included studies showed that the social aspects of art activities were associated with increases in positive behaviours, such as reducing apathy among residents.

      Review authors also found that arts helped residents develop an increased sense of self. Interestingly, this increased self-awareness may have contributed to a decrease in self-reported quality of life ratings by residents in one study.

      There was evidence that arts may be particularly beneficial for those with existing clinical needs, such as pre-existing depression and anxiety.

      Although many studies found that arts had positive effects on resident behaviour and psychological wellbeing, they did not seem to be any more effective than other programs made available to residents.


      Research from this systematic review showed that arts can benefit the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of care home residents. In addition to identifying evidence for including art activities within care homes, this review also outlines which activities may produce the greatest benefits.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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