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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
  1. Clelia Clini1,
  2. Linda J M Thomson2,
  3. Helen J Chatterjee2
  1. 1 Institute for Media and Creative Industries, Loughborough University London, London, UK
  2. 2 Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL Biosciences, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Helen J Chatterjee; h.chatterjee{at}


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 personal emotions 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.

  • creative activities
  • forced displacement
  • participatory action research
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • refugees and asylum seekers

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  • Contributors CC, LJMT and HJC made substantial contributions to the conception and design of the work; drafting and critically revising the work for intellectual content and the final approval of the version published. CC conducted the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data for the work. All authors agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. We would like to thank the clients, volunteers and staff who were coresearchers in the project.

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

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study gained approval from UCL Ethics Committee (Ethics Application 4526/002 Codeveloping a method for assessing the psychosocial impact of cultural interventions with displaced people: towards an integrated care framework) to carry out the research with potentially vulnerable participants.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Due to the confidential nature of the human participant data, it will not be freely available via free access databases. Any request for data should be addressed directly to the corresponding author.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.