Open Access Open Badges Research article

Are variations in rates of attending cultural activities associated with population health in the United States?

Anna V Wilkinson1*, Andrew J Waters2, Lars Olov Bygren34 and Alvin R Tarlov56

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Unit 1340, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1155 Hermann Pressler Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA

2 Department of Behavioral Science, Unit 1330, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1155 Hermann Pressler Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030 USA

3 Department of Biosciences, Karolinska Institute, SE-171 77, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Department of Community Health and Rehabilitation, University of Umeå, SE-901 87, Umeå, Sweden

5 James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005, USA

6 Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, 540 North State Street, #3801, Chicago, Il 60610, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:226  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-226

Published: 31 August 2007



Population studies conducted in Sweden have revealed an association between attendance at cultural activities and health. Using data from US residents, we examined whether the association could be observed in the US.


Participants in the current study included 1,244 individuals who participated in the 1998 General Social Survey.


A significant association between cultural activities and self-reported health (SRH) was observed, even after controlling for age, gender, marital status, race, number of children, subjective social class, employment status, household income, and educational attainment. Specifically, the more cultural activities people reported attending, the better was their SRH.


The data confirm that an association between cultural activity and health is present in a US sample. The data do not mean that the association is causal, but they suggest that further longitudinal research is warranted.