How the arts connect us

CPS research discovers how arts engagement supported people’s feelings of social connectedness during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our large-scale survey of 5892 adults in the UK showed that most respondents perceived their engagement with the arts to connect them to other people, at least some of the time. The arts were reported to facilitate connections through four pathways: social opportunities, sharing, feelings of commonality and belonging, and collective understanding.

During the pandemic, however, many of the opportunities to engage in the arts with other people – such as in rehearsals, as audience members, or in community groups – were stopped or significantly reduced. This left open the question of whether the arts continued to support feelings of social connectedness during the pandemic.

To address this, CPS researchers replicated their pre-pandemic research at two times points in the first year of the pandemic: March-May 2020 and October 2020. 581 adults provided data at both points, and the results showed that during the first year of the pandemic people continued to report that the arts connected them to others through the same four pathways. During the pandemic, respondents reported that the arts acted as a catalyst for conversations, helped to maintain, reinstate, or strengthen relationships during social distancing, and facilitated social interactions. The arts also brought people together through shared experiences and elicited feelings of direct and indirect proximity to others, connecting people with common interests, supporting a feeling of belonging and a collective ‘COVID-19 experience’, and supported learning from and about other people.

Rosie Perkins, first author on the article, commented that: “This research reminds us of the many roles that the arts can play in supporting people to feel connected to others, including in times of social distancing, and highlights once more the importance of equal access to the arts”.


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Visit BMC Public Health to read the pre-pandemic findings

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