The impact of culture on societal well-beings

Department of Humanities, University of Catania (Italy)

The relationships between Cultural Heritage and Well-being are numerous and the practical and policy area implications of their interlacements are just as many. Research, surveys and data analysis in the scientific literature provide robust evidence that the idea of heritage and cultural sector as mere entertainment or leisure activity is reductive and misleading and therefore counterproductive for the sustainability and the development of societies, both in developed and developing countries. UNESCO itself has recognized the transformative power of culture in enabling sustainable development and has suggested a methodology for demonstrating culture’s role and contribution to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, considering culture as a transversal sector.

To enhance the central role of culture for the well-being of societies, it is necessary to innovate the ways in which these relationships are perceived, and it is essential to learn to measure their impacts. This study aims to stimulate the debate on the connections between cultural participation and well-being and to provide some references to methodologies, case studies and findings which have been implemented, conducted and obtained to measure the impact of culture on economic well-being, sociological well-being and on health and psychological well-being. These connections have been largely discussed in the academic literature as well as from International Organizations. The World Health Organization (WHO) itself has financed a scoping review to address the evidence on the role and impact of the arts and culture in improving health and well-being.

To conclude, this study collects and proposes some of the main policy recommendations related to the generative role of culture and cultural heritage as well-being providers in different areas. In doing so, this study can be considered as a call to action for those interested in the study of culture and heritage, in order to increase the awareness of the essential role of the impact assessment in their research.