You may have noticed those adult coloring books popping up everywhere, encouraging us to take a break from our hectic schedules and indulge in a little art therapy. And why not? Studies continue to confirm the stress-relieving benefits of creative expression, and this one is no exception.
Researchers from Drexel University in Pennsylvania wanted to see firsthand how making art affects human stress levels, so they recruited more than three dozen adults aged 18 to 59 and asked them spend 45 minutes getting in touch with their creative sides. Of note, roughly half of the study participants admitted to having only a “limited” art background before taking part in the study.
Cortisol levels were recorded before and after the participants got crafty with paper, markers, clay and other materials—since heightened cortisol levels typically coincide with increased stress. The results showed that following the brief period of creativity, about 75 percent of the men and women experienced a decrease in cortisol levels, regardless of whether or not they considered themselves artistic.
As for the outcome, lead author Girija Kaimal had this to say: “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”
Instead, researchers found that younger study participants saw the most benefit, suggesting that older adults may have had time to develop other ways of managing stress. Kaimal hopes to expand upon the small study and further explore the therapeutic value of art as stress relief.