Arts on prescription: a qualitative outcomes study

Public Health. 2013 Aug;127(8):727-34. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


Objectives: In recent years, participatory community-based arts activities have become a recognized and regarded method for promoting mental health. In the UK, Arts on Prescription services have emerged as a prominent form of such social prescribing. This follow-up study reports on the findings from interviews conducted with participants in an Arts on Prescription programme two years after previous interviews to assess levels of 'distance travelled'.

Study design: This follow-up study used a qualitative interview method amongst participants of an Arts on Prescription programme of work.

Methods: Ten qualitative one-to-one interviews were conducted in community-based arts venues. Each participant was currently using or had used mental health services, and had been interviewed two years earlier. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and analysed.

Results: For each of the 10 participants, a lengthy attendance of Arts on Prescription had acted as a catalyst for positive change. Participants reported increased self-confidence, improved social and communication skills, and increased motivation and aspiration. An analysis of each of the claims made by participants enabled them to be grouped according to emerging themes: education: practical and aspirational achievements; broadened horizons: accessing new worlds; assuming and sustaining new identities; and social and relational perceptions. Both hard and soft outcomes were identifiable, but most were soft outcomes.

Conclusions: Follow-up data indicating progress varied between respondents. Whilst hard outcomes could be identified in individual cases, the unifying factors across the sample were found predominately in the realm of soft outcomes. These soft outcomes, such as raised confidence and self-esteem, facilitated the hard outcomes such as educational achievement and voluntary work.

Keywords: Arts; Arts on Prescription; Identity; Outcomes; Social prescribing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Motivation
  • Program Evaluation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept