A study of nearly 50,000 people in Norway has found that people with an active involvement in the arts, theatre or music are more likely to feel healthier and less depressed.
The study, carried out by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), used questionnaires, interviews, clinical examinations and blood and urine samples to build detailed health profiles of the participants.
It found that men who participated regularly in some form of cultural activity, such as attending concerts, theatre events or even playing a musical instrument, were less likely to suffer from depression.
Professor Jostein Holmen, who presented the findings, said: "There is a positive relationship between cultural participation and self-perceived health for both women and men.
"For men, there is also a positive relationship between cultural participation and depression, in that there is less depression among men who participate in cultural activities, although this is not true for women."
The research also showed that the relationship between cultural participation and perceptions of health was indiscriminate of socio-economic background.
"We in the health services do not always have control over the most effective preventive tools given the range of today's illnesses. We need to increasingly focus on opportunities rather than on risk," Steinar Krokstad, associate professor at NTNU, said.