In October 2018, the British government unveiled an ambitious strategy to tackle the growing problem of loneliness in the U.K. — Expansion of Social Prescribing. What is social prescribing? Social prescribing enables organisations, including doctors (i.e. general practitioners), to refer people to a range of services that offer support for social, emotional or practical needs. Services include music lessons, dance lessons, hobby-based activities, singing and other art or hobby-based therapeutic activities. By 2023 it is projected that British doctors will be able to prescribe such non-drug based therapeutic art treatments for ailments such as dementia, psychosis, lung conditions and other mental health conditions.
Between 5% and 18% of U.K. adults feel lonely often or always. From working remotely, to studying online, to shopping online, to finding love online, the risk of losing the warmth of human contact is real. But, rather than attempting to resist these changes in society, the British government’s latest initiative aims at designing solutions that support social relationships in our evolving society.
A similar initiative was launched in Canada where members of the Montreal-based medical association Médecins francophones du Canada (MdFC) were granted the ability to prescribe up to 50 prescriptions to tour Quebec’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for free. The Canadian initiative was built on research suggesting that museum visits raise serotonin levels helping people with mood-boosts. But, unlike the more comprehensive British initiative, the Canadian initiative is rather narrow as it allows for every member to prescribe just one museum visit. The British campaign on the other hand allows for prescription of a range of social activities, including cooking classes, gardening and attending concerts.
Here at Televeda, we see the benefits of art-based therapeutic treatments everyday. Music and movements not only help boost moods but routine movements help keep the joints young and improve range of motion. While a hobby-based activity may seem like it is primarily for entertainment, these initiatives in the U.K. and Canada which are built on mounting research evidencing the benefits of art-based therapies, will help encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit. We have our fingers (and toes) crossed for the success of these bold initiatives!