Trips to art galleries, museums or the theatre can help you live longer, research has suggested. Picture: (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

London - Trips to art galleries, museums or the theatre can help you live longer, research has suggested.

A study of more than 6 700 people found that enjoying the arts every few months lowers the risk of dying early by 31 percent.

Even those who engaged in cultural activities just once or twice a year had a 14 percent reduced risk compared to Britons who never engaged with the arts.

The findings held true even when other factors likely to influence life expectancy such as wealth, education, employment and exercise were taken into account.

Previous studies have shown that the arts can improve physical and mental wellbeing – helping to combat depression, dementia, chronic pain and frailty.

Researchers asked Britons over the age of 50 how often they engaged with the arts, including going to the opera and visiting exhibitions at museums and galleries.

They tracked them for 12 years to see how likely they were to die.

The team, from University College London, said: "Receptive arts engagement could have a protective association with longevity in older adults. This association might be partly explained by differences in cognition, mental health and physical activity among those who do and do not engage in the arts, but remains even when the model is adjusted for these factors."

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: "While 'leisure' has been broadly linked to a lower risk of premature death, few studies have focused specifically on arts engagement in the UK.

"Our results suggest there might be broader benefits including helping to promote longer lives."

The team’s work is published in the British Medical Journal. In an accompanying article, experts said those who have the most to gain from cultural activities – such as the lonely or depressed – are least likely to go to museums or the theatre.

GP training programme director Nicola Gill and art and health academic Stephen Clift added that more than 40 per cent of study participants in the poorest group "reported that they never accessed cultural activities". They stressed: "Work must now be done to ensure that the health benefits of these activities are accessible to those who would benefit most."

Daily Mail