Sunday, October 23, 2005

Why is this news?


Apparently this article is slowly making the rounds. Having been released by Agence France Press last week. On the surface all fine and dandy, a nice feel good sort of story about how viewing art is good for your health, with a large dose of sophomoric humor thrown in for good measure - due to the quote "they used fewer laxatives." But I'm now going to have to add AFP to my list of shoddy journalists.

The original paper was published in the International Journal of Psychosomatics, in 1992. Where as it states in the abstract:
Reports on a controlled intervention study on the effects of nondirected use of pictures of works of art as a way of stimulating institutionalized elderly women. 12 women (aged 77-94 yrs), divided into intervention (IT) and control (CTL) groups, underwent a stimulation period. Differences in ratings between the 2 groups indicated improved well-being in the IT group. Quantitative analysis of the results revealed a significant change in the parameters of happiness, peacefulness, creativeness, social activities, and systolic blood pressure. Qualitative analysis revealed that conversations about the works of art in the IT group were characterized by imagination and happiness. In the CTL group, the conversations were characterized by downheartedness, despair, and complaining.
Unless of course there is a "new and improved" version of the study (which in fact might be the case, since AFP refers to 20 women, not 12) and I am just unable to track it down. One key point - it ain't the art itself, just pictures of art. I've emailed Dr. Britt-Maj Wikstroem of the Ersta Skoendal University College in Stockholm to see if I can get my hands on a copy of the article. I'd love to know what pictures of what art they were exactly.

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