Happiness rises when culture thrives

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 May, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong has been variously described as a pressure cooker and a cultural desert. A new overseas study shines a light on the connection between the two.

All work and no play - or at least, all work and no cultural activity - do make life duller. That's the finding of a Norwegian study, whose results can be applied to our city.

The study, led by Koenraad Cuypers of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that people who regularly go to concerts and museums, play a musical instrument or create art are more satisfied with their lives than those who don't. It analysed the lifestyles of 50,797 adults in Norway by asking detailed questions about their leisure habits and state of health, satisfaction with life and levels of depression and anxiety.

It also spots a gender difference. Men who go to art exhibitions and concerts generally experience an upbeat mood and improved health. Women feel the same by actively participating in artistic activities. But the general result, applied to men and women alike, is unambiguous: there is a strong correlation between cultural activities and happiness.

We wonder: does the happiness factor apply to pop concerts with such acts as Lady Gaga and the Twins? Or do the musicians have to play Mozart and Bach? Do happier and healthier people tend to pursue more creative activities, or do the creative activities make you happier and healthier?

Either way, there is no denying the psychological benefits of culture. Hong Kong has made great strides in building an arts scene, despite some misguided government initiatives. More progress, such as getting on with the West Kowloon arts hub, will go a long way to make us a more liveable city.