Cultural Access and Mental Health: An Exploratory Study

Loss of well-being, rising rates of depression and various psychological illnesses are a public health concern. This study aims to explore the associations between cultural access and mental illness. Applying a panel methodology to the 20 Italian regions (2002–2007 period) the relationship between public health expenditure per-capita (the dependent variable) and hospital discharge rates for different illnesses (the regressors) has been estimated. Then the impact of the private spending in culture (the regressors) on the mental illness—as approximated by the discharge rate for mental illness—(the dependent variable), has been verified via generalised method of moments (GMM) approach. Data came from the National Census of the Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). The results of empirical analysis have highlighted how the discharge rate for mental illness is substantially improved by some forms of cultural consumptions. The coefficients associated with unemployment rates (the control variables) have a positive impact on mental illness, thus suggesting that unemployment has an impact on the discharge rate for mental illness; the greatest impact is observed for the long-term unemployment rate. The results are beneficial for designing and implementing preventive strategies to reduce mental illness and public health expenditure by considering the impact of cultural access.

Article by Alessandro Crociata, Massimiliano Agovino, Pier Luigi Sacco
Published in Soc Indic Res (2014) 118:219–233 – DOI 10.1007/s11205-013-0426-4

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
Key Points
• Public health faces today new challenges, under the form of epidemic diffusion of elusive though serious diseases such as well-being deprivation, rising rates of depression and various psychological illness.
• There is room to believe that culture-related programs could exert positive effects on these epidemics.
• We found that the discharge rate for mental illness is significant and has greater weight than other discharge rates in the determination of per capita public health expenditure.
• We found that the discharge rate for mental illness is significantly reduced by some forms of cultural consumption, i.e.: sport events, books, newspapers and museums and art exhibitions.
• Working on Italian regional data, our findings may be important for developing of public health policies in order to reduce mental illness and public health expenditure through carefully designed and implemented forms of cultural access.

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