Future Trends: Measuring The Impact of Arts & Culture on Wellbeing

Measuring The Impact Of Arts & Culture On Wellbeing

Future Trends Series

The Future Trends series explores different aspects of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 (UK CoC 2021). It aims to provide accessible, research-led accounts of issues related and relevant to the development of the UK City of Culture programme.

Measuring The Impact Of Arts & Culture On Wellbeing

The paper was released in December 2022.


As the UK’s third City of Culture (UK CoC) has drawn to a close, there is a unique opportunity to reflect on what works to improve wellbeing in place-based arts and culture initiatives and thereby inform policy and investment decisions.

Evaluations of wellbeing interventions constitute a key source of evidence on the drivers of quality of life and social capital. So what does the growing body of evaluation research say about the wellbeing value of arts and culture interventions? What are the factors that enable wellbeing outcomes and reduce social inequalities?

This paper reflects upon key findings from a new rapid review on what works to improve wellbeing in arts and culture interventions, connecting research findings with the priorities of policy-making. It looks ahead to future wellbeing and place-based research, making recommendations on how to generate and sustain wellbeing value creation through arts, culture and heritage interventions

The Future Trends paper explores:

  • wellbeing as a lens
  • wellbeing evidence on arts, culture, and heritage
  • social inequalities and the importance of place
  • using wellbeing data in policy appraisal
  • wellbeing and the UK CoC awards
  • Coventry CoC UK 2021 – evaluation design and priorities
  • the participatory nature of arts and culture interventions across social capital.

It reveals mechanisms of change that successfully generate wellbeing outcomes through participatory arts and culture:

  • relational and creative processes in participatory art practices are key pathways to wellbeing improvement
  • social contexts can enhance the potential for improving wellbeing.

It explores the approach used by Coventry UK CoC 2021:

  • wellbeing and cultural participation
  • the Caring City programme
  • capturing impact.


Cultural events should be seen as long-term projects and there must be a greater commitment to capturing the duration of effects, as well as to exploring the longer-term legacy effects of mega-events.

This requires a step change in the quality of evaluations that explore the drivers of wellbeing in place-based arts, culture, and heritage interventions more generally.

Future research must generate and disseminate high quality evidence on the impacts of cultural policy. It must delve into the mechanisms of change through which strong social networks may be built and well-functioning and close-knit communities sustained.


This Future Trends paper was written by Margherita Musella – What Works Centre for Wellbeing and Mark Scott – Warwick Business School.

These Future Trends papers were published as part of the UK Cities of Culture project and commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


This website reflects a variety of UK CoC 2021 activities, funded by different funding bodies. It has been created as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project City Change Through Culture: Securing the Place Legacy of Coventry City of Culture 2021 (Grant Reference AH/W008769/1).

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