Museums and Wellbeing: Just What the Doctor Ordered!
Doctors in Canada, England, & Belgium prescribe museums visits for their patients to improve their mental health
The medical field in Europe and Canada--unlike in the United States--acknowledges the mental health benefits of museums including distraction, reduced stress, new learning, social engagement, and more.
In the fall of 2022, a pilot program began in Brussels to provide "museum prescriptions" for up to five visits to patients with non-severe mental health issues. The goal is to encourage patients to reduce their stress and improve wellness by changing their perspective as they visit a museum with friends and family. Doctors are looking at the mental health benefits and the collaborative cultural organizations acknowledge the benefits of making it easier for people to visit cultural organizations, especially those who resist due to financial constraints or feeling that museums aren't for them.
In an article about Canadian doctors writing prescriptions to visit museums, Smithsonian Magazine describes museums as peaceful environments, "a kind of modern cathedral." This test program in Montreal gives doctors the opportunity to hand out up to 50 museum prescriptions for patients and a limited number of friends and family members. These museum visits will supplement other treatment approaches such as therapy, medication, and more.
In the United Kingdom, museum visits are part of social prescribing, providing patients with options outside of more traditional doctor visits and medication, as a way to improve people's well-being. Museums are considered places to help with anxiety, loneliness, and mental health issues. Early data into museums-on-prescription showed a 37% reduction in visits to general practitioners as well as a 27% reduction in admissions to hospital.
So go! Visit your local museum!
Museums and wellbeing go together! Plan to visit again soon. Whether you visit your hometown's small, local art museum, or plan a trip to the nearest big city's natural history museum, it will have benefits for your overall wellness.
Do you have an example of how a museum visit helped your mental wellness?