Objectives: There is a social gradient in both arts engagement and wellbeing that may have led to an overestimation of the impact of arts engagement on wellbeing. We tested whether participation in community arts groups was associated with wellbeing after removing confounding by demographic, socioeconomic, and health-related factors.Methods: Using propensity score matching, we analyzed data from 12,055 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study. We measured community arts groups participation and concurrent life satisfaction (evaluative wellbeing), positive and negative affect (experienced wellbeing), and purpose in life, constraints on personal control, and mastery (eudaimonic wellbeing).Results: After matching, arts group participation was associated with higher positive affect (average treatment effect on the treated [ATT] = 0.18, 95% CI = 0.12-0.24), life satisfaction (ATT = 0.09, 95% CI = 0.04-0.15), purpose in life (ATT = 0.07, 95% CI = 0.02-0.13), and mastery (ATT = 0.07, 95% CI = 0.01-0.14) than not participating. Participation was not associated with negative affect or constraints on personal control. In sensitivity analyses, these associations were maintained four years later.Conclusion: Arts group participation was associated with the positive elements of evaluative, experienced, and eudaimonic wellbeing. Facilitating participation in community arts groups could help to promote healthy aging, enabling a growing segment of the population to lead more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
Keywords: Cultural engagement; community groups; epidemiology; mental health; music and arts; quality of life/wellbeing.