It is sometimes very useful to bear in mind a few of the concepts defined and approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the international reference authority. Let’s focus on two of these recommendations: there can be no health without mental health, and art has a role in improving physical and mental health.

Mental health: a vital part of overall health

The WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Mental health is much more than the absence of mental disability and is determined by a range of factors: socio-economic, biological and environmental. Due to a high prevalence of mental health disorders, this is a priority public health concern calling for preventive action and proactive initiatives. It is also essential to improve the lives of those who suffer from mental health issues. The latest report published by the WHO in June 2022 shows that there is still much more to be done in this field.


For the first time in November 2019, the WHO recognised that art is beneficial to physical and mental health after studying the benefits of artistic activities on health through more than 900 international studies. Art generates well-being from the youngest age to the end of life and is used as an addition, or reinforcement, to therapy.

The report states that art can work in different ways, with benefits such as:

  • stimulating certain cognitive functions in patients with dementia
  • limiting the side effects of cancer treatments
  • considerably improving motor scores for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease

The WHO has also drawn up a list of five different types of art: culture (museums, concerts, and theatre, etc.); literature (reading and writing); visual arts (painting, photography, and design, etc.); performing arts (singing, music, dancing and cinema) and online arts (activities and digital art).

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Article updated on 12/08/22