Visiting online art galleries can improve mood and well-being

Experiencing art online has the same effect as going to an art gallery or enjoying nature, according to a study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Visiting art galleries and museums can improve mood and well-being as well as reduce stress. But does a similar digital experience have the same effect? A study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, wanted to answer this question. Their result: Even a short visit to an online art or cultural exhibition can have positive effects on well-being.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, cultural institutions quickly moved from their art galleries and exhibitions in physical space to increased use of the internet. For the first time, digital museums have become the center of public attention. As a result, people around the world with an Internet connection could assess this material, allowing museums to reach a much wider audience than before.

“These goals appear to have been well received by the public, particularly those with low well-being and mental health issues, with evidence suggesting that a significant portion of individuals were, for the first time, seeking online artistic encounters,” wrote the authors of the study.

In the new study, a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics asked participants to visit the websites of several art exhibitions using their phones, tablets or computers. Participants also rated their well-being and mood before and after the visit.

The results showed that even brief visits of just a few minutes could have a beneficial effect, with participants reporting improved mood and well-being, as well as reduced anxiety and feelings of loneliness. These results were similar to other interventions, including nature experiments and visits to real art galleries. Moreover, the more the participants found the exhibition meaningful or beautiful, the more positive feelings it created.

In view of these results, the authors suggest that this type of intervention could be used for some specific users, including waiting rooms, hospitals and rural areas with limited access to art exhibitions.

“Findings from this article suggest that online cultural engagement, including but not limited to fine art, appears to be a viable tool for supporting mood, anxiety, loneliness, and well -being of individuals, especially when such content is beautiful, meaningful, and inspires positive cognitive-emotional states in the viewer,” the researchers concluded.

Tripp M, Bignardi G, Chanda K, Specker E, Pelowski M (2022) Can brief interaction with online digital art improve well-being? A comparative study of the impact of online artistic and cultural presentations on mood, state anxiety, subjective well-being and loneliness. Frontiers in Psychology Sec. Health Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.782033


Mildred D. Field