Older People Arts Network (OPAN), photo by Entelechy Arts, Roswitha Chesher

Arts, Culture and Mental Health

There is increasing evidence that participation in arts and culture has a positive impact on people's lives. It can improve mental health and wellbeing, and bring people and communities together.

We know that over two million Londoners experience mental health problems every year. That is two million too many.

In July 2017, the Mayor launched Thrive LDN – a city-wide movement that aims to end the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage happier, healthier lives.

And in November 2017, Thrive LDN and the Greater London Authority (GLA) Culture Team commissioned an independent consultancy to explore the potential for arts and culture to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners.

We wanted to understand what cultural and creative organisations were doing to improve mental health and wellbeing. We researched a wide range of art forms - including film, dance, music, art and literature, that took place in many different places.

We looked at a broad range of activity from grassroots activities to national programmes, and considered programmes that affected people at every stage of their life - from pre-natal to end-of-life.

We talked to a cross-section of people, including the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing; leading universities, major trusts and foundations, arts organisations and community groups to gain an overview of arts and culture programmes taking places in community and health settings.

We held an event at City Hall with over 100 participants to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing arts, culture and mental health and wellbeing programmes in London and to make some recommendations.

What did we discover?

In short, there is widespread support for the idea of boosting the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners through the provision of arts and culture activity.

Our research found evidence that participating in arts and culture can:

  • Keep us well
  • Help us recover from illness
  • Relieve loneliness and anxiety

But, there are challenges too.

Despite the variety of activities on offer across the capital, the research also showed that:

  • The provision of activities across London boroughs is uneven
  • There is a lack of awareness about what arts and culture activities are on offer
  • Activity is often uncoordinated at borough level and there could be more opportunities for organisations to collaborate

In short, there is widespread support for the idea of boosting the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners through the provision of arts and culture. 


Find out more about organisations and groups that have inspired us - click on the buttons below. 

What are we doing now?

We want to showcase and encourage collaborations across the city to produce and promote cultural activity which support the aim of improvng mental health and wellbeing.

While this is a long-term aim we are keen to get things going and here are a few programmes which can support your project ideas.

The Culture Seeds programme and Young Londoners’ Fund both offer opportunities to apply for funding to develop such initiatives.

There is also an opportunity to develop these in partnership with the 8 winning London Boroughs of Culture.

We are also interested in forming partnerships and identifying opportunities for the Mayor to endorse best practice so please do get in touch with us.

We will pilot a London-wide programme of cultural activity through October, raising awareness of mental health and embracing community participation. Given the theme for World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2018 is ‘Young people’s mental health in a changing world’ we have particularly sought to work with young Londoners.

The Mayor's Cultural Leadership Board and Culture team are working across the organisation to embed arts and culture into both the Mayor's Health Inequalities Strategy and  social integration strategy.

Useful links - Arts Council England

The Arts Council supports activities across England spanning arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature and crafts to collections.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing was formed in 2014 and aims to improve awareness of the benefits that the arts can bring to health and wellbeing. Their report contains recommendations, evidence and best practice case studies.

London Arts & Health Forum

London Arts & Health Forum is a free to join membership organisation which aims to develop the role of culture in wellbeing and to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.

National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing

National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing is a national voice and resource for arts and health activity. 

Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance

The Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance is a new national organisation representing everyone who believes that cultural engagement and participation can transform our health and wellbeing.

Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose

Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose – AESOP is an active distributor of arts and health information and a connector of arts and health organisations.

Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health

Sidney De Haan Centre for Arts and Health researches the value of music, and other participative arts, to promote the wellbeing of individuals and communities, and continues to build the case for Singing on Prescription.

The Royal Society for Public Health

The Royal Society for Public Health has established a Special Interest Group (SIG) for Arts & Health to support research, share evidence-based practice and organise seminars.

Mental Health Foundation

A key partner of Thrive LDN, the Mental Health Foundation have been successfully running the Scottish Arts & Mental Health Festival for 11 years

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