Creative classes and mental wellbeing

The science


Engaging in creative activities is associated with lower subsequent risk of dementia.
Spending more time on creative activities (like crafts or hobbies) increases the chances that you will reduce your risk of dementia.
We found that engagement in crossword puzzles and crafts reduced the risk of dementia
Some of the activities (e.g. bridge, board games) which require interaction with other people can be considered partly social activities, and social integration has been shown to be associated with dementia risk reduction
Source: Scientific study of a cohort of 942 participants, by Hughes, T., Chang, C. H., Bilt, J. V., Ganguli, M. (2010). Engagement in reading and hobbies and risk of incident dementia
1: Recreational classes are an effective way to reduce stress and burnout, by promoting psychological detachment.
Higher levels of psychological detachment during time away from work predicted lower levels of burnout at a subsequent time point
Source: Psychology study of 200+ participants by Lancaster, P. G. (2013). Predictors and outcomes of occupational burnout: A five-wave longitudinal study. (See also 'psychological detachment' academic journal articles below)

Engaging in hobbies is associated with lower burnout levels.
Source: Study of 365 teachers by Seidman, S. A. & Zager, J. (1991). A study of coping behaviours and teacher burnout, Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations, 5:3, 205-216

Crafts like knitting are particularly effective in reducing stress.
Source: Study of 225 adults by Utsch, H. (2007). Knitting and stress reduction, PhD study, Department of Clinical Psychology, Antioch University New England, Keene, NH.
2. New experiences + Less stress = Higher creativity and productivity.
Stressed people primarily display routinized, habitual, well-rehearsed behaviour patterns, because their attention is focused on the stressors with the result that creative ideas are less likely to come to awareness.
Mere exposure to more and increasingly divergent information raises creativity
Sources: Multiple studies, e.g. Simonton, D. K. (1999). Origins of genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; and Martindale, C. (1999). The biological basis of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 137-152). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Should the stressors continue, [employees are] at significant risk of developing physiological and psychological disorders that can lead to increased absenteeism, organizational dysfunction, and decreased work productivity
Source: Study by Colligan, T. W., & Higgins, E. M. (2006). Workplace stress: Etiology and consequences. Journal of workplace behavioral health, 21(2), 89-97.
3. Workers spread their positivity and negativity. E.g. workers who had positive wellbeing are more likely to have positive team members around them 6 months later; the opposite is also true - stressed or downtrodden people bring down those around them.
Emotion travels over social networks in much the same way viruses do
Source: Study of 100+ teams, by Gallup social scientists.

More reading

de Bloom, J., Ritter, S., Kühnel, J., Reinders, J., & Geurts, S. (2014). Vacation from work: A ‘ticket to creativity’?: The effects of recreational travel on cognitive flexibility and originality. Tourism Management, 44, 164-171.
Fritz, C., Yankelevich, M., Zarubin, A., & Barger, P. (2010). Happy, healthy, and productive: The role of detachment from work during nonwork time. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95 (5), 977-983.
Riley, J., Corkhill, B. and Morris, C. (2013). The benefits of knitting for personal and social wellbeing in adulthood: findings from an international survey, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76 (2), 50-52.
Sonnentag, S. & Fritz, C. (2007). The recovery experience questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12 (3), 204-221.
Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95 (5), 965-976.
Taris, T. W. (2006). Is there a relationship between burnout and objective performance? A critical review of 16 studies. Work & Stress, 20 (4), 316-334.
Toppinen-Tanner, S., Kalimo, R., & Mutanen, R. (2002). The process of burnout in white-collar and blue-collars jobs: Eight year prospective study of exhaustion. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23 (5), 555-570.


Want to know more about the science behind burnout?
Reach out to our psychology research team.