The impact of arts for health on the health, wellbeing and quality of life of older adults in care homes: systematic review and national survey


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Older adults residing in care homes are vulnerable to physical and psychological stressors that can impact upon their health, wellbeing and quality of life. Despite increased interest in the potential for the use of arts for health there has been no evaluation of current empirical evidence assessing its impact exclusively within the care home population. Furthermore, there has been no mapping of arts for health activities delivered within care homes and associated benefits.
Study 1 consisted of a systematic review that evaluated published empirical research focused on assessing the impact of arts for health activities for older adults residing in care homes. Databases were searched from inception with continual updates until August 2018. A total of 71 studies were eligible for inclusion in the review and these underwent data extraction and quality appraisal with a subsequent descriptive narrative synthesis of all included studies. Studies were classified to form an arts typology which included music, performing arts, literary spoken and written word, multisensory activities, and applied arts and crafts. Following this, a further descriptive narrative synthesis of studies was conducted according to arts type.
Study 2 was a national survey conducted between 2017 and 2018 and evaluated the delivery and potential impact of arts for health activities in care homes. A total of 184 care home managers responded to the survey, with ten follow-up telephone interviews carried out with a self-selecting sub-sample of those completing the survey.
Findings showed existing empirical research evaluating arts for health within the care home population is of varying quality and focused mainly upon the evaluation of music activities. There was evidence of benefit for measures of psychological wellbeing, agitation, cognition, socialisation and improving the caring process with less support for measures of quality of life or verbally disruptive behaviours. Low baseline levels were reported for depression and behavioural disturbances and high baseline measures of quality of life were reported by both studies, this may have contributed to a lack of observable improvements for these measures. Therefore, future research should focus on the potential of arts for health in the maintenance of health, wellbeing and quality of life. Quantitative findings alone did not show arts activities to be more beneficial than other forms of social activities delivered within care homes. However, qualitative evidence showed findings unique to arts activities which would be difficult to capture quantitatively, such as creativity and self-expression which reinforces the need for further research to utilise mixed methods.
Date of Award25 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorMARY O'BRIEN (Director of Studies), LUCY GIBSON (Supervisor) & BRENDA ROE (Supervisor)


  • Health
  • Wellbeing
  • Quality of life
  • Arts for health
  • older adults
  • care home
  • systematic review
  • national survey
  • narrative synthesis

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