Associations between community cultural engagement and life satisfaction, mental distress and mental health functioning using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS): are associations moderated by area deprivation?

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

September 3, 2021


Objectives: The association between community cultural engagement and mental health and well-being is well established. However, little is known about whether such associations are influenced by area characteristics. This study therefore examined whether the association between engagement in community cultural assets (attendance at cultural events, visiting museums and heritage sites) and subsequent well-being (life satisfaction, mental distress and mental health functioning) is moderated by neighbourhood deprivation.

Design: Data were drawn from Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study waves 2 and 5. Participating households’ addresses were geocoded into statistical neighbourhood zones categorised according to their level of area deprivation.

Setting: General population.

Participants: UK general adult population, with a total sample of 14 783.

Main outcome measures: Life satisfaction was measured with a seven-point scale (1: completely unsatisfied to 7: completely satisfied). Mental distress was measured using the General Health Questionnaire 12. Mental health functioning was measured using 12-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12).

Results: Using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, we found that engagement in cultural assets was consistently and positively associated with subsequent life satisfaction and mental health functioning and negatively associated with mental distress. Importantly, such associations were independent of individuals’ demographic background, socioeconomic characteristics and regional location. The results also show that relationships between engagement in community cultural assets and well-being were stronger in more deprived areas.

Conclusions: This study shows that engagement in community cultural assets is associated with better well-being, with some evidence that individuals in areas of high deprivation potentially may benefit more from these engagements. Given that causal mechanisms were not tested, causal claims cannot be generated from the results. However, the results suggest that place-based funding schemes that involve investment in areas of higher deprivation to improve engagement rates should be explored further to see if they can help promote better well-being among residents.

Published in

BMJ Open


Volume: 11






Open Access

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:



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