MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Are you the type of man who
enjoys going to concerts, art galleries and the theater? If so,
here's some good news: A new Norwegian study suggests that you are
more likely to enjoy life and be in better health than those who
Both men and women who engaged in sports, religious and cultural
events reported better health and satisfaction with life than those
who were less engaged.
But men, especially, saw benefits. Men who attended cultural
activities were 9 percent more likely to report being in good
health than men who didn't attend, while women who attended
cultural activities were 3 percent more likely to report good
Men who attended cultural activities were also 14 percent more
likely to say they were satisfied with life, 13 percent less likely
to have anxiety and 12 percent less likely to be depressed. Women
also saw benefits, though they were less pronounced.
Those who took part in the activities either as a viewer or a
participant "were ... more likely to report better and health and
satisfaction with life -- and lower anxiety and depression -- than
those who didn't participate," said study lead author Koenraad
Cuypers, a research fellow at the Norwegian University of Science
The study results held up even when researchers adjusted for
factors that could influence the results, such as age, chronic
disease, exercise, smoking, alcohol use, social and economic status
and body mass index.
Although the research doesn't confirm that cultural and sports
activities lead to better well-being, it does establish a link
between the two, the researchers noted.
Happiness may seem like a tough thing to pin down, but
psychology researchers have spent years trying to define it and
figure out the best ways to attain it. The new study, which appears
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, surveyed more than 50,000 Norwegians.
Some of the activities involved watching but not participating:
visits to museums, art exhibits, concerts, films and plays, along
with attending church and sports events. Others, like playing
sports, dancing, singing, working out, and going to club meetings,
involved active participation.
Researchers found that those who watched or participated in
these activities reported more happiness and a higher quality of
life. Of those who said they participated in five or more cultural
activities over six months, 91 percent said they were somewhat to
very satisfied with life, compared to only about 84 percent of
those who took part in just one activity.
In women, participating in clubs or associations, music,
singing, dancing, attending the theater, working out or doing
sports and enjoying outdoor activities was associated with good or
very good health.
In men, on the other hand, engaging in parish (religious)
activities was associated with good to very good health, along with
participating in associations, outdoor activities, dancing and
working out or sports.
What's going on? Study author Cuypers said it's possible that
the activities may have a beneficial effect on the brain, the mind
and the immune system. In the study, he and other researchers also
noted other scientists have suggested cultural activities might
also improve health by lowering stress levels.
But it's also possible that healthier and happier people simply
get out more, said Shigehiro Oishi, an associate professor of
psychology at the University of Virginia. "So we can't conclude
from this study that now we know cultural activities are good for
our health and happiness," Oishi said.
Watching or participating in cultural activities isn't always
cheap or free, and it may be tough to coax people to get off their
couches and go do something. But the study suggests that there's
value in encouraging people to be active, Cuypers said.
And even if cultural participation might not do much for an
individual's likelihood of being unhappy or ill, Cuypers said small
changes can have a big effect across an entire population.
For a definition of the quality of life, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.