Objective: To determine the relation between engagement in cultural activities and main causes of mortality among full-time employees.
Methods: Finnish industrial employees (N=7922) completed a questionnaire about engagement in cultural activities (arts and culture, activities in associations, societal action, reading literature, and studying) in 1986 and were followed-up for mortality rates until 1986-2004.
Results: High engagement in cultural activities was independently associated with decreased all-cause mortality (hazard ratio 0.71, 95% CI 0.57-0.88) and external causes of death (hazard ratio 0.46, 95% CI 0.24-0.90) after adjustment for socio-demographic factors, socio-economic status, work stress, social characteristics, diabetes, and hypertension. High engagement was also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality after controlling for socio-demographic factors and stress (hazard ratio 0.68, 95% CI 0.49-0.95). The associations with all-cause mortality and deaths from external causes remained after further adjustment for behavioral risk factors. Of the forms of engagement, solitary cultural activities were related to all-cause mortality while socially shared cultural activities were more closely linked to external mortality.
Conclusion: Better overall survival of culturally engaged employees is largely attributable to their lower risk of death from external causes.