Is Art the Key to Stroke Recovery?

If you think listening to a CD or marveling at the works of Picasso makes you feel better, it might be more than a gut feeling. New research presented at the 12th Annual Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing on March 16-17 revealed that stroke survivors who like art have a significantly higher quality of life than those who do not. In addition, patients who appreciated music, painting and theater recovered better from their stroke.

“We know that every six seconds there is a person affected by stroke in the world,” said Dr. Ercole Vellone, lead author and assistant professor in nursing science at the School of Nursing, University Tor Vergata, in Rome, Italy. “Identifying strategies to improve stroke recovery and patients’ quality of life represent a priority for the healthcare system, and art exposure seems to be promising.”

Researchers asked 192 stroke survivors (70 years of age on average) whether they liked art (such as music, painting and theater). Then the researchers compared quality of life for patients interested in art (105) versus patients not interested (87).

The results showed that those interested in art were healthier overall, had an easier time walking and had more energy. The art-loving patients also had a better state of mind and reported being happier, less anxious/depressed, and feeling calmer. Memory was also greater among patients interested in art, and these patients were better communicators.

“Stroke survivors who saw art as an integrated part of their former lifestyle, by expressing appreciation toward music, painting and theater, showed better recovery skills than those who did not,” said Dr. Vellone.

According to Dr. Vellone, the results reveal the importance of lifelong exposure to the arts for recovery.