Practising arts has been linked to lowering stress, anxiety and blood pressure. These mechanisms are all known to affect the ageing process. Therefore, we examine the relation between long-term involvement in arts and life expectancy at age 50 (LE50), in a cohort of 12,159 male acoustic, literary and visual artists, who were born between 1700 and 1899 in the Low Countries. We compared the life expectancy at age 50 of the various artists with the elite and middle class of that time. In the birth cohorts before 1850, acoustic (LE50:14.5–19.5) and literary artists (LE50:17.8–20.8) had a similar life expectancy at age 50 compared to the elite (LE50:18.0–19.0). Only visual artists (LE50:15.5–17.1) had a lower life expectancy at age 50 compared to the elite at that time. For the most recent birth cohorts from 1850 through 1899, the comparison between artists and the elite reversed and acoustic and literary artist had a lower life expectancy at age 50, while visual artists enjoyed a similar life expectancy at age 50. Although artists belonged to the middle socioeconomic class and lived predominantly in urban areas with poor living conditions, they had a life expectancy similar to the elite population. This is in line with observed favourable effects of practicing arts on health in the short-term. From our historical analysis, we hypothesize several mechanisms through which artistic creativity could influence the ageing process and life expectancy. These hypotheses, however, should be formally tested before any definite conclusions on effects of arts on ageing can be drawn.
- life expectancy
- Low Countries