Those benefits were also independent of whether or not people had contact with friends and family or took part in social activities.
London: Regular visits to the cinema, theatre or to museums could dramatically reduce the chances of becoming depressed in old age, a study claims.
Researchers at University College London in the UK found a clear link between the frequency of ‘cultural engagement’ and the chances of someone over 50 developing depression.
The study is the first to show that cultural activities not only help people manage and recover from depression but can actually help to prevent it.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found people who attended films, plays or exhibitions every few months had a 32 per cent lower risk of developing depression, with those attending once a month or more having a 48 per cent lower risk.
"Generally speaking, people know the benefits of eating their five-a-day and of exercise for their physical and mental health, but there is very little awareness that cultural activities also have similar benefits. People engage with culture for the pure enjoyment of doing so, but we need to be raising awareness of their wider benefits too", Daisy Fancourt, Lead Author of the study said.
The study looked at data on more than 2,000 people over the age of 50, who took part in the long-running English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
The researchers were able to look at data collected from people's answers to questionnaires and in one-to-one interviews over the course of ten years.
This included information about how often they visited the theatre, concerts or the opera, the cinema, art galleries, exhibitions or museums.
Even when the results were adjusted to take account of differences in people's age, gender, health and their levels of wealth, education and exercise, the benefits of cultural activities remained clear.
Those benefits were also independent of whether or not people had contact with friends and family or took part in social activities like clubs and societies.
The researchers believe the power of these cultural activities lies in the combination of social interaction, creativity, mental stimulation and gentle physical activity they encourage.