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Art and wellbeing in a deprived Scottish community

Joanne Abbotts (Statistics adviser in the AIDS and reproductive health team at the Department for International Development, East Kilbride, UK)
William Spence (University teacher at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 21 June 2013




This study aimed to evaluate the “Out of the Box” initiative, by investigating any impacts on participants’ wellbeing. Aimed at general population adults, Out of the Box comprised two art‐oriented groups and one social group, led by a community art worker.


Individual semi‐structured interviews were undertaken with 14 group members (six men, eight women; age range 36‐71 years) from a potential pool of around 30. Data were analysed thematically.


Dramatic benefits in confidence, outlook and happiness were reported by people who had experienced poor mental or physical health, or adverse life events. Participants believed Out of the Box to have facilitated social contact and friendships. They appreciated the opportunity to get out of the house and take part in activity. They described feeling accepted and encouraged. Artistic skills were developed to the extent that work was exhibited and sold.

Research limitations/implications

The focus on contemporaneous Out of the Box participants, and a level of awareness of funding uncertainty, could have biased findings towards beneficial outcomes. The relative importance of the group leader and other contextual features was unclear. Community‐based art may offer opportunities for effective cheap public mental health interventions.


As well as providing evidence of benefits to wellbeing from Out of the Box, new knowledge was generated on mental health benefits of community‐based art including becoming more outgoing, improved self‐efficacy, worrying less and not panicking.



Abbotts, J. and Spence, W. (2013), "Art and wellbeing in a deprived Scottish community", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 58-69.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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