Study sheds light on key barriers and benefits to engaging with the arts14 April 2010
A lack of time, the cost and not having enough information are the three key reasons why people are not engaging with the arts according to research being presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference today (April 14).
The study, which aimed to investigate the barriers behind people not participating in the arts and to identify the most under-represented groups, was carried out by Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham-based art consultants the Cultural Consortium.
The research comes at a time when the Government, through local authorities, is striving to increase people's engagement with the arts, such as art or craft exhibitions, theatre, music, dance and ballet, book or writing events and cultural festivals. More than 4,300 people took part in the study - which was commissioned by the Derbyshire Arts Development Group and Derbyshire County Council - with the findings being used to enhance participation in the arts among under-represented groups.
More than a third (34.5%) of participants claimed it was too difficult to find the time to attend events, with only slightly fewer (32.8%) blaming the cost and more than a quarter (26%) stating the reason as a lack of information. The other most popular reasons identified were not having enough notice about the event (18.1%) not being close enough to home or place of work (15.9%) not being interested (15.1%).
A lack of transport, poor health, having no-one to go with and feeling uncomfortable or out of place were also identified in the study. The arts had simply never occurred to some people, while others felt it could be too complex and confusing, or that it would not be an enjoyable experience.
Based on the responses given, participants could be classed into one of six groups: 'time-conscious' (23.7%) 'non-motivated' (22.9%) 'uninformed' (18.8%) 'isolated' (17.7%) 'arts resistant' (5.2%) and 'no barriers' (11.6%). The study found that males were most likely to fall into the uninformed, arts resistant and no barrier groups, while females typically came under the time-conscious, isolated and non-motivated groups.
Participants aged 25-44 were most likely to be within the arts resistant category, while those over 60 were least likely to come under that group and the most likely to be in the no barriers group. People over 60-64 and 65-74 were the most time-conscious and uninformed, and those aged 25-54 were more likely to be isolated and non-motivated.
As well as investigating what deterred people from participating, the study also looked into the various benefits obtained from those who did engage with the arts. The two main types of benefits were identified as intrinsic and extrinsic, which related to respondents' inner-worlds, like their spiritual and emotional wellbeing, and physical world in terms of meeting other goals, such as mixing with like-minded people.
Researcher Dr Glenn Williams, from Nottingham Trent University's Division of Psychology, and Alan Humberstone and Tim Harris from the Cultural Consortium, co-authored the paper, Participation in the arts and wellbeing: constructing a typology of perceived benefits and barriers.
Dr Williams said: "Participation in artistic and cultural activities can play an essential role in helping people to live a fulfilling and meaningful life and provide major benefits for health and wellbeing. This research is key to understanding the factors that hinder people from taking part in the arts, as well as offering insights into the benefits that are gained from participation. It is the first of its kind in using cutting-edge statistical techniques to analyse the complex reasons behind the barriers that prevent people from engaging with the arts.
"Our approach is novel because it analyses the psychology behind what people get out of the arts and what hinders them from taking part. Local authorities, using our approach, are now able to target their initiatives to help people overcome the barriers behind arts participation. This research will help to inform the Government and local authorities about who to focus on with specific initiatives to increase people's engagement in the arts."