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Living in environments with art improves health… and safety

Art has a positive effect on people and this is an undeniable fact. Without getting any further, there are therapies that use art as a mechanism to heal or treat specific ailments.

A recent study has broadened these benefits to the point of affirming that equipping culturally and artistically a neighborhood has a clear influence on the health, security and education of its inhabitants, even in the least privileged communities, or better be said, especially in them.

Studies about inequalities in the cities tend to analyze criteria like rent, language, nationality or religion. However, the School of Social Policy & Practice from the University of Pennsylvania has become the first institution in including art and cultural infrastructures as factors in determining life quality of a population.

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According to a study published by this institution a few days ago, in less privileged areas of New York where art is present, child abuse has diminished a 14% (as well as crimes in an 18%) compared to similar areas in rent and demographic profile but with less cultural infrastructure. All this of course without forgetting the improvements on academic performance on students and their health.

Despite these good results, the responsible of the study affirm that art on its own is not enough to improve citizens’ life. In fact, it’s only one element that must be articulated with many others to obtain a social improvement.

What many affirm is that art inversions made in neighborhoods with less money are more profitable from the social point of view, than in more privileged communities.

The explanation is simple. While residents from wealthy zones can improve their safety when they need to, people from less privileged areas need everything to work in this “ecosystem” in which art is a fundamental piece.

In fact, the researchers of this study are questioning those people who affirm it’s not necessary to invest in some neighborhoods when big cities already have a good cultural offer. Although it’s true that in cities like New York museums, cinemas or concert halls are a few subway stops away, this study concludes that positive repercussion in a community is much smaller than the one obtained when there are cultural centers, libraries or theaters in the neighborhood itself.


Here in the US there are several social groups that are working in tune with this study from the University of Pennsylvania. Many citizens against culture cutbacks are demanding for more art inversion while being aware of its importance to the community.

For the makers of this study, which by the way shows very similar results to another previously made in Philadelphia, only through this kinds of politics a true definition of wellbeing can be reached. As they explain, this concept represents people’s capacity of freely making decisions that affects their lives and transform them in something valuable.

Finally, they say art can’t be conceived as a simple economic activity that generates jobs and collect taxes. For them, culture is a tool for critique that population use to improve their lives in all senses; from developing the capacity of understanding the world or relate to people, to develop abilities or simply entertainment.

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