The Interaction Between Culture, Health and Psychological Well-Being: Data Mining from the Italian Culture and Well-Being Project

The purpose of this study is to understand the impact of health status and cultural participation upon psychological well-being, with special attention to the interaction
between patterns of cultural access and other factors known to affect psychological well-being. Data for this report were collected from a sample of 1,500 Italian citizens. A multi-step random sampling method was adopted to draw a large representative sample from the Italian population. Subjects underwent a standard questionnaire for psychological well-being [the Italian short form of the Psychological General Well Being Index (PGWBI)], and a questionnaire related to the frequency of participation to 15 different kinds of cultural activities during the previous year. The results show that, among the various potential factors considered, cultural access unexpectedly rankes as the second most important determinant of psychological well-being, immediately after the absence or presence of diseases, and outperforming factors such as job, age, income, civil status, education, place of living and other important factors. According to a semantic map generated by a powerful data mining algorithm, it turns out that different factors (among which cultural access and health status in particular) may be viewed as concurrent elements of a complex multi-causal scheme that seems to play a primary role in determining psychological distress or well-being. In particular, distress seems to be tightly connected with: living in the Southern part of Italy, average income level, living in semi-urban and urban areas, age group 46–60, presence of more than two concomitant diseases and a low level of cultural access. Well being, on the other hand, is tightly connected with: male gender, high cultural access, and absence of diseases. Some of these associations are confirmed by Principal Component Analysis.

Article by Enzo Grossi, Giorgio Tavano Blessi, Pier Luigi Sacco, Massimo Buscema
Published in Journal of Happiness Studies (2012) 13:129–148

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
(…) The relationship between cultural access and subjective well-being, however, is likely to be quite subtle and elusive, at least when investigated by means of conventional univariate, bivariate or multivariate statistical analysis. Cultural habits are manifold, and are rarely reducible to single-channel patterns: people with cultural interests tend to allocate their time, attention and energy among several different activities. Therefore, if one wants to trace how cultural access contributes to psychological well-being, there is a strong necessity to rely upon tools that allow the researcher to take into account this inextricable multi-dimensional association between variables that translate the typical behavioral patterns of (cultural) choice. To this purpose, we have to dismiss models where only a few variables are selected through linear correlations, for the result would be a model that is unable to consider in full the dynamic interaction of variables, in order to assess their joint predictive potential.
The advanced ANNs techniques adopted in this paper, however, allow us to do precisely this, and consequently to evaluate what is the best bundle of variables that explains the variability of the target, and the internal ranking of such variables in terms of relative predictive power. Once we put the culture/well-being link under the right set of analytical lenses, it turns out quite clearly that ‘culture counts’, namely, that there is clear evidence that cultural access has a definite impact on individual psychological well being (and particularly so if cultural access occurs in a well-balanced mind–body perspective), and moreover that culture provides for some of the most effective predictors of well-being.

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