Theater in Health

Theater in Health

Theater in Health

What could save Medicare $6.3 billion dollars per year? You probably wouldn't guess regular participation in a choir, dance, theater, or the visual arts.

The research of Gene D. Cohen showed that creativity is universal and continues to function, in conjunction with ongoing psychological growth, throughout the life cycle.

Over the course of two years, he studied the participants of a Washington, D.C.-area chorale comprised of individuals from 65 to 103 years old. He found significantly better health outcomes among these individuals compared to the control group as evidenced by a reduction in doctor visits and medication use, fewer falls and general health problems, as well as better morale and less loneliness (2009 59). Overall, the benefits, when extrapolated to the Medicare population as a whole, would mean a cost savings of approximately $6.3 billion a year.

Because theater activities are mullti-modal--that is, they involve your physical, mental, emotional, and psychological self--Theater in Health is a growing area of practice and scholarship. Theater in Health means theater done for theater's sake and accepting and documenting the health benefits that occur as a result of active or passive participation. This is somewhat different from Theater for Health which has very specific health-related goals and is carried out by, for example, drama therapists.

Dr. Connie's master's thesis explored the development of the use of the creative arts as a tool for health promotion in Scandinavia. She presented a paper, "Using the Creative Arts for Health Promotion in Scandinavia;” at the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies, UCLA, May 2018

She was inspired to begin doing research in this area. Projects to date include the following:

  • A pilot project (in collaboration with Cathy Madden) consisting of three theater workshops over 3 months documenting quality of life improvements. The results were co-presented with Cathy at the 14th International Conference on The Arts in Society, at the Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon, June 2019. A paper was later self-published on
  • A presentation at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, University of Washington, April 2019, "Reimagining Nordic Mythologies of Healing"
  • A qualitative study (in collaboration with Pam Gerke and Lena Hristova) of nurses', nursing students', and nursing professors' response to seeing a musical about Florence Nightingale; presented virtually at the 15th International Conference of The Arts in Society, National University of Ireland-Galway, June 2020, and at the World Nursing Education Conference, September 2021
  • "Conversations with the Seeress: Interrogating Apocalyptic Thinking," a sculptural installation in the "Biography of an Idea" group exhibit, at the Inter-Media Resource Center (IMRC), University of Maine, December 2021
  • "Together Apart Together" (AKA "Telehealth"), a video installation in the group exhibit at the IMRC, University of Maine, August 2022
  • A case study (in collaboration with Cathy Madden) of "Enhancing Telehealth Fluency Using Professional Empathy Practices (derived from the actor's canon)," presented at the 11th Annual Northwest Regional Telehealth Conference, Salt Lake City, September 2022

Areas Covered

Seattle metropolitan area

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