Arts engagement facilitated by artists with individuals with life-limiting illness: A systematic integrative review of the literature

Palliat Med. 2021 Dec;35(10):1815-1831. doi: 10.1177/02692163211045895. Epub 2021 Nov 16.


Background: Living with life-limiting illness significantly impacts quality of life. A growing body of evidence suggests that arts engagement facilitated by artists promotes well-being. However, no synthesis of the literature exists to describe arts engagement delivered by artists with individuals receiving palliative care.

Aim: To systematically review and synthesize evidence to identify outcomes and key knowledge gaps to inform future research and practice.

Design: A systematic integrative literature review was conducted using a pre-defined search strategy and reported using PRISMA guidelines. Analysis was conducted iteratively and synthesis achieved using constant comparison to generate themes.

Data sources: PubMed/MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science, and Embase were searched for studies published between database inception and August 2020. Search terms included variations on arts/artists; patients/service users; and palliative or end-of-life care. Eligibility criteria was applied and study quality assessed.

Results: Seven reviewed studies explored literary, performing, and visual arts engagement in hospitals, hospice and community settings in England, the United States, France, and Canada. Study designs, interventions and findings were discussed. Themes identified across studies associated arts engagement with (1) a sense of well-being, (2) a newly discovered, or re-framed, sense of self, (3) connection with others, and (4) challenges associated with practice.

Conclusion: Recommendations for future research were offered in order to maximize benefits, minimize risks and address complexity of artists' engagement in palliative care including: (1) consistency in methods and reporting; (2) inclusion of wider perspectives; and (3) key considerations for adapting the arts by health condition and art form.

Keywords: Arts; artists; arts engagement; arts in health; arts interventions; end-of-life care; hospice; integrative review; palliative care; patients; service users.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Terminal Care*