The cultural Olympiad and its impact on mental health and wellbeing

05/07/2012  -  11.07am

Ranjit Khutan, Principal Lecturer, Head of Public Health & Wellbeing

The Olympics are not just about the sporting events. The Cultural Olympiad which spans the four years before the Olympic Festival includes activities inspired by the event – 16 million people are said to have engaged in thousands of performances, workshops and events across the UK for the London 2012 games.

Many of these events celebrate the contribution of the arts to people’s lives and in doing so places value on the engagement in activities that are proven to result in people’s increased health and wellbeing.

You don’t have to be a public health specialist to know that engaging in sport will have a positive impact on your wellbeing - it will result in increased physical fitness and reduced stress, but watching sports and engaging in arts and cultural activities will also have a positive effect on your health, namely your mental and emotional wellbeing.

These aspects of health are often neglected until it’s too late. For example, short term and mild stress is a healthy and productive state for many, but if it is allowed to continue for a longer period of time it can eventually lead to other serious physical and emotional health problems.

Due to the many advances in understanding and awareness, people are less embarrassed to talk about emotional health issues, but there are many people that still supress their feelings and don’t seek help.

Unfortunately, these issues are very easy to hide. To combat this problem those working in public health promotion are using the arts and cultural activities to engage communities, resulting in a direct positive impact on their emotional health but also enabling a dialogue where people can discuss how they feel and understand what help and support is available to them.

As the Olympic flame, one of the final elements of the cultural Olympiad, made its way through the streets of Wolverhampton and the Black Country over the weekend, its light shone on the faces of the thousands of onlookers and ignited ideas and thoughts as many reflected on the significance of this event to them.

There has been so much to be gloomy about of late, but the extent to which the games and the events preceding it have a lasting positive impact on the wellbeing of people is something that public health workers will reflect and look upon with interest.