Are Playing Instruments, Singing or Participating in Theatre Good for Population Health? Associations with Self-Rated Health and All-Cause Mortality in the HUNT3 Study (2006–2008), Norway

  • Bente Irene LøkkenEmail author
  • Vegar Rangul
  • Dafna Merom
  • Ola Ekholm
  • Steinar Krokstad
  • Erik R. Sund


Cultural activities like playing an instrument, singing or participating in theatre can affect biological processes in the human body and have shown to have a positive health effect on patients. Previous studies from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT), Norway, indicate that people who are culturally active experienced better self-reported health were more satisfied with their lives and experienced less anxiety and depression. A study performed on adolescents, 13 –19 years, found an association between participation in cultural activities that involved social interactions with others and good health, good life satisfaction and good self-esteem. Another study suggested that effects of cultural activities are different from the effect from participation in social activities on body fat distribution in adolescents.

The present study focuses on the association between engagement in performing music, singing and theatre with self-rated health (SRH) and all-cause mortality in the population. The main research question is whether people who actively engage in music, singing and theatre have better SRH and survive longer compared to those who do not participate in these activities on a regular basis. Secondarily, possible gender differences are explored. Data were obtained from the third Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT3, 2006–2008) and all-cause mortality data from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry 2006–2015. In total 50,807 participated (aged ≥20 years), with 41,198 returning questionnaires informing about the participants’ cultural activities. Self-reported creative participation in music, singing and theatre was correlated with self-perceived health and all-cause mortality. Preliminary results suggest that women not engaged in playing an instrument, singing or participating in theatre had an increased risk for having poor SRH compared to women who actively participated in such activities. Men not engaged in playing an instrument, singing or participating in theatre had increased risk of dying compared to men who actively participated. In summary, these findings suggest that participating frequently in music, singing and theatre appears to increase subjective SRH for women and reduce all-cause mortality for men. Stimulating such activities may have positive health effects in the population.


Cultural participation Music Singing Theatre Public health All-cause mortality Self-rated health Cohort study Epidemiology Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) Norwegian Cause of Death Registry 



The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (The HUNT Study) is a collaboration between HUNT Research Centre, (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Nord-Trøndelag County Council, Central Norway Health Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bente Irene Løkken
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Vegar Rangul
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dafna Merom
    • 4
  • Ola Ekholm
    • 5
  • Steinar Krokstad
    • 2
    • 3
  • Erik R. Sund
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Nord UniversityLevangerNorway
  2. 2.HUNT Research CentreDepartment of Public Health and Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)LevangerNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Resource Centre for Arts and HealthLevangerNorway
  4. 4.School of Science and HealthWestern Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.National Institute of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkCopenhagenDenmark

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