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Researchers spoke to young people for qualitative study exploring their perceptions of using arts and culture online to improve mental health.

Researchers, led by Dr Rebecca Syed Sheriff in Oxford's Department of Psychiatry, interviewed 13 participants aged between 18 and 24 for the study, published in the British Medical Journal.

The participants were socio-demographically diverse, had a range of mental health experiences, and varied in their use of online arts and culture.

Findings included:

  • Participants said online engagement had some advantages over in-person engagement and benefits were greater with familiarity and regular use
  • Having a 'human connection' was identified as the feature of online arts and culture that was most likely to benefit mental health
  • Participants emphasised the importance of representation
  • The ways online arts and culture could help mental health included by  improving perspective, reflection, learning, escapism, creativity, exploration and discovery, which might help disrupt negative thought patterns, lift mood and encourage feelings of calm and proactivity.

Researchers say the study shows that young people have a critical level of insight and understanding regarding their mental health and the ways it might be improved.

The findings will help optimise how online arts and culture could be used to improve mental health.

It follows the launch of the Origin project - a major study trialling an 'online museum' to improve young people's mental health, co-produced by young people themselves.