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New Waikato study backs creative impact on wellbeing

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 21 November 2022

Creative engagement enhances wellbeing for the community (Photo provided)

Arts, culture and creativity are vital to all facets of a thriving society – and a Waikato organisation can now prove it.

A new community research report by Creative Waikato and Huber Social was released on Friday, November 18 2022  with game-changing local evidence that speaks about the impact that Waikato’s creative communities are having on people in the region.

Developed to better understand the multi-layered benefits work by artists and creative organisations, the digital survey was conducted over the month of June 2022, and received an overwhelming response from people with varied levels of arts engagements ranging from low to high.

As a result, local evidence has now been collaborated that speaks about the impact and insights gathered from the study can support further changes in the future funding and support systems for Creative Waikato and offer powerful reasons to make time for more creativity in daily lives of the people.

Why it matters

Creative Waikato CEO Dr Jeremy Mayall said “I’m sure we can all think about a creative experience that has had a positive imprint on our lives – confidence, community connection, deeper understanding, or perhaps joy, these are all part of the profound impacts of creative activity. We may understand these things intuitively, but it is useful to have local insights to help us tell better stories and encourage further investment and engagement at all levels.”

Ms Mayall said “This information will hopefully support artists and community organisations to get further audience engagement, as well as encouraging increased civic and community investment to enable access and sustainability for an important part of our society.”

These direct benefits for wellbeing, including improved mental health outcomes, and greater job satisfaction through creativity in the workplace, provide clear weight to the need for greater investment in arts, culture and creativity for all Waikato residents, building towards a thriving creative ecosystem.

Views of a Waikato Resident (Photo supplied)

What the numbers say

The study showed that on average, Waikato residents who have a high level of engagement with arts, culture and creativity have higher well-being than those who have little or no engagement. The more often we attend, create or participate in artistic and cultural events, the higher our wellbeing is likely to be.

Mental Wellness, which is a priority need in Waikato and evidence from the research showed how engagement with arts, culture and creativity is one way of improving mental health outcomes, so encouraging more engagement can contribute to a positive shift.

As per the research, Waikato residents recognised the value that arts, culture and creativity contribute to their everyday life, as well as that of their whānau and children, and a key takeaway is how important access to creativity is for wellbeing.

Waikato residents who are highly engaged with arts, culture and creativity scored higher on average across factors related to connection to community and place, including sense of belonging, opportunities to connect with both like-minded and diverse people, and feeling connected to land and nature. As both outcomes have strong relationships with overall wellbeing, higher scores across these factors may explain in part why those who are highly engaged with arts, culture and creativity also have higher wellbeing than those with little or no engagement.

In total, 989 Waikato residents participated in the Waikato Wellbeing Survey.

Age groups of 45-54 years and 55-64 years constituted the largest age groups represented in the survey (19% each). Over 50% of respondents were based in Hamilton City, slightly more than the population average. 11% of respondents identified as LGBTQIA+. 16% of respondents identified as Māori. 3% of respondents identified as students, and 16% as retired. The largest employment sector represented in the survey was education and training (30%). The creative sector constituted about one-eighth (12.3%) of all responses. About 50% of the sample is involved with the creative sector in some capacity, either as professional creatives or enablers of arts, culture and creativity.

What the numbers say (photo supplied)

What is next

The Creative Waikato team will continue to utilise these insights in our ongoing advocacy work locally, regionally and nationally. We will create opportunities to support community organisations in articulating their own impact and utilising this information to support funding applications and reporting. As part of this, we have collaborated with Huber Social on a community toolkit to unpack these things in further detail, including understanding the theory of change. The community toolkit contains both educational and practical content to support organisations in taking the first steps towards impact measurement.

We will also look to explore further collection of this information on an ongoing basis to understand the trends in our community and to further support a vision for change. We intend to utilise this work to support ongoing systemic change in our sector.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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