Can Arts Projects Improve Young People’s Wellbeing? a Social Capital Approach


Social Science & Medicine




Community arts projects are widely believed to have positive impacts on health, wellbeing and social inclusion. Such beliefs underpinned the UK Government-funded SingUp programme for children. Drawing on data from participant observation, extended interviews, focus groups and a questionnaire survey, we examine the experiences of children in three SingUp choirs. We focus specifically on social and emotional wellbeing as they relate to social capital: this being one of the key pathways through which arts participation is thought to impact on health and wellbeing more widely. For many (particularly girls from relatively privileged backgrounds), the experience has been largely positive, providing opportunities to develop social capital, make new friends and build confidence. However, others’ experiences have been more equivocal, entailing risks of disconnection from existing networks of friends. We argue that, while arts projects can impact positively on young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, we cannot assume that the changes will be unequivocally good or straightforward. We follow Bourdieu and other critical theorists in arguing that social capital operates in association with economic and cultural capital, and cannot be understood in isolation from the wider constraints of people’s lives. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Children; Emotional Functioning; Engagement Level; Interviews; Mental Health; Questionnaires; Recreative Music Methods; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

arts; young people; wellbeing; social capital approach; health; Children; Financing, Government; Focus Groups; Great Britain; Interviews as Topic; Mental Health; Observation; Program Evaluation; Psychological Theory; Quality of Life; Social Support; Surveys and Questionnaires; Art; Communities; Social Capital; Well Being; Educational Programs; Sociocultural Factors

Study Type

Case Study; Qualitative Methods

Document Type