Tranlsated from the German publication art Magazin
Art has recently become part of the medical treatment repertoire in Montreal, Canada. The Medecins Francophones du Canada (MFdC) medical association and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts have started to work together, where patients with complaints such as diabetes, depression, or heart problems are to be treated with free museum visits. In addition to traditional treatment, medicine is administered in the form of Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Rembrandt or El Greco. The program is in a testing phase for one year and 2,000 doctors are participating.
“There is more and more scientific evidence for the benefit of art therapy”, says MFdC Vice President Helene Boyer. “The levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced in test patients after only a 45-minute visit to the museum. In some cases, art helps to relieve pain, the regulate the heartbeat or to improve the mobility of patients. Just like enjoying dark chocolate, viewing works of art can increase the amount of the happiness hormone serotonin in the brain.”
A study by the University of Westminster showed that participants are less stressed during their lunch break after a visit to a museum. To look at a work of art that you like has the same stimulating effect as being in love. The neurobiologist Semir Zeki from London University College came to this conclusion. In both cases, dopamine is release. The idea that art can heal is not new. The Museum of Modern Art in New York started a program in the 1940s for war veterans to help them resume their lives with the help of art. Today the MoMA runs a program for Dementia and Alzheimer patients and their relatives.
The “RxArt” initiative in the United States ensures that art by Ed Ruscha, Laura Owens or Jeff Koons is shown in children’s hospitals. While creative activities such as painting and occasional museum visits in Germany are already part of therapy, an initiative for “social prescriptions” has now been launched in Great Britain: Doctors are to prescribe dance classes, singing lessons and even participation in art groups in addition to medication for a range of physical and mental illnesses. “We have cultivated a culture pill and Prozac takers. Social prescriptions can help us fight over-medication,” says Health Minister Matt Hancock. “Access to the arts improves people’s mental and physical health, which makes us happier and healthier.”
Similar successes are celebrated in Scotland with “nature medicine”. For example, only 90 minutes a day in the forest can cause activities in the brain attributed to decreasing depression. Perhaps both art and nature simply cause us to feel alive again and less lonely. Another study has found that loneliness is as much of a health risk as smoking.
By Claudia Bodin