A Norwegian epidemiological study finds that men who engage in cultural activities are happier and healthier. Really? Even when they look at art like this?
The Scream, by Edvard Munch (a Norwegian, I might add)
According to a report on livescience.com, study author Koenraad Cuypers found that beneficial results depended on the type of cultural activity. There’s “creative culture” in which you make stuff, and “receptive culture” in which you see stuff.
Church attendance and going to sports events were linked to increased life satisfaction in women; women who attended sports events also were more likely to describe themselves as healthy. Men felt healthier when they did volunteer work and participated in associations, outdoor activities and physical exercise. Strikingly, the researchers found that all receptive cultural activities, whether musical, theatrical or artistic, were also associated with good health in men.
“Men seemed to get more of a percieved health benefit from being involved in different receptive cultural activites than women did,” Cuypers said, adding that in both genders, there was a dose-response effect: The more activities a person participated in, the happier they tended to be.
Well, this is an issue I have no personal experience with, so I turned to my colleague Chris Roberts (a man) for some perspective. Would he agree, that his exposure to art has made him healthier and happier?
First of all Marianne, I’m honored you’ve chosen me to represent my gender. You should know I’ve always considered myself a real man’s ‘cultured man.’ No treats for me during intermission at a play, unless I’m willing to balance every 50 calories with a set of 20 push-ups. I try hard not to smile or emit audible gasps when I see art that moves me at a gallery opening. Why show emotion when a solemn fist bump with the artist very sufficiently communicates what I’m feeling?
That said, I think the researchers might be on to something. Art connects people, even men, to their humanity, to the excitement of being alive. It teaches us things, ignites our emotions, overwhelms our senses, makes us laugh, gives us insights into ourselves we couldn’t gather on our own. In the eternal quest for dopamine release, art is a powerful ally. I’m happy to report men are beginning to understand this. In fact, some of my fondest memories are of a gallery hopping weekend in Chicago with my sister and brother-in-law. Stupendous art viewing from one gallery to the next, and I didn’t have to report on any of it.
There you have it. Art makes you happy, as long as you’re not on deadline.