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Assessing the impact of artistic and cultural activities on the health and well-being of forcibly displaced people using participatory action research

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posted on 25.02.2019, 14:44 by Clelia CliniClelia Clini, Linda J. Thomson, Helen J. Chatterjee
Objective Drawing on a growing body of research suggesting that taking part in artistic and cultural activities benefits health and well-being, the objective was to develop a participatory action research (PAR) method for assessing the impact of arts interventions on forcibly displaced people, and identify themes concerning perceived benefits of such programmes. Design A collaborative study following PAR principles of observation, focus groups and in-depth semistructured interviews. Setting London-based charity working with asylum seekers and refugees. Participants An opportunity sample (n=31; 6 males) participated in focus groups comprising refugees/asylum seekers (n=12; 2 males), volunteers (n=4; 1 males) and charity staff (n=15; 3 males). A subset of these (n=17; 3 males) participated in interviews comprising refugees/asylum seekers (n=7; 1 males), volunteers (n=7; 1 males) and charity staff (n=3; 1 males). Results Focus group findings showed that participants articulated the impact of creative activities around three main themes: skills, social engagement and personalemotions that were explored during in-depth interviews. Thematic analysis of interviews was conducted in NVivo 11 and findings showed that artistic and cultural activities impacted positively by helping participants find a voice, create support networks and learn practical skills useful in the labour market. Conclusions The study expanded on arts and well-being research by exploring effects of cultural and creative activities on the psychosocial well-being of refugees and asylum seekers. By focusing on the relationship between arts, well-being and forced displacement, the study was instrumental in actively trying to change the narrative surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, often depicted in negative terms in the public sphere.


The work was supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Grant reference: ES/P003818/1 PI: HJC.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

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BMJ Open


CLINI, C., THOMSON, L.J. and CHATTERJEE, H.J., 2019. Assessing the impact of artistic and cultural activities on the health and well-being of forcibly displaced people using participatory action research. BMJ Open 2019, 9, e025465.


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