Posted on Jul 06, 2023, 4 p.m.
Group-based performing arts therapies, like dancing, effectively help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Open that was conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, it affects how we think, feel and act. There is no single cause for mental illness, and there are multiple factors that can contribute to the risk of mental illness. According to the CDC, in America, current estimates are that more than 1 in 5 adults are living with some form of mental illness, and 1 in 5 teens have been dealing with a seriously debilitating mental illness at some point in time during recent years.
The researchers reviewed 171 studies to examine the effects of group-based performing arts therapies on symptom severity, overall well-being, quality of life, functional communication, and social participation.12 studies were selected for further review that met the screening criteria, and these studies involved 669 participants from 9 different countries who were diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression.
There were 5 main forms of performance art therapies included in this study: music therapy, art therapy, theater therapy, dance therapy, and martial arts-based therapy; dance therapy was the most extensively studied. The severity of anxiety and depression were the most commonly explored outcomes, with a quarter of the studies investigating well-being aspects like life satisfaction and the ability of the arts to enhance social interaction skills. Only 2 of the selected studies examined quality of life, and none of the studies explored the impacts on everyday communication.
Five studies examined the impacts of dance therapy on mental health, analysis revealed that this form of therapy helped to make significant improvements in depression and anxiety levels of the participants. Three studies examined the impacts of art therapy, which included clay art therapy, analysis revealed that this form of therapy also helped to significantly reduce the levels of anxiety and depression in the participants.
“Anxiety and depression are major global health challenges, for which we desperately need non-drug treatments that reduce symptoms. Our review found real promise across a range of studies – but this field of research has stagnated,” says Dr. Max Barnish, the study’s author from the University of Exeter Medical School. “We now need researchers to work across the performing arts to compare group therapies to each other, so we can establish which type of activity is most effective in reducing symptoms.”
The researchers noted that although their findings suggest that there are significant benefits associated with utilizing performance arts therapies to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, there is still ample scope for renewed/further research and development in this field to help address this global health challenge.
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