While audiences' wellbeing has taken a significant hit during the pandemic, some groups have felt less negatively impacted than others, and engaging with arts and culture has proved to be a mood booster.

Key Findings

  • Wellbeing has been very negatively affected by the pandemic, with one in three saying they’ve felt more lonely and less satisfied with their life. More detail.
  • These adverse effects though were felt less by lower-engaged audiences and young families. More detail.
  • Age is a big factor: younger audiences, in particular those under 25, have reported the gravest impact on their wellbeing since the pandemic, while older audiences were the least affected, enjoying greater stability in terms of free time and income, albeit having been less active and less social. More detail.
  • There is some evidence that engagement with arts and heritage during the pandemic has had a positive effect on wellbeing. More detail.

The pandemic has, understandably, had a very negative effect on audiences' wellbeing

The data from June 2021 clearly shows that the pandemic has had an adverse effect on respondents’ wellbeing, with:

  • 36% saying they felt lonely more often during the pandemic, and
  • 38% saying they now feel less satisfied with their life.

Despite things opening up, when asked about how they had been feeling over the previous two weeks:

  • 29% of respondents said they rarely or never felt optimistic about the future (cf. 23% saying often or always).
  • 1/3 respondents said they never or rarely felt they had energy to spare.
  • 1/4 had never or rarely experienced an interest in new things.

These are factors that might affect willingness to attend cultural events.

Audiences were asked to consider how the pandemic had affected their lifestyles:

  • 2/3 of all respondents said they had been less sociable with people outside their household.
  • 2/3 of all respondents also said that they had taken part in activities less often.

Typically lower engaged audiences and young families have felt their wellbeing has been less negatively impacted

Lower Engaged Audiences

Lower engaged more active during pandemic.png

Those audiences classed as lower-engaged appear to have been slightly less affected by these changes. They were:

  • A bit less likely to have socialised less with people outside their household (57% socialised less cf. 65% of high-engaged audiences and 67% of medium-engaged)
  • Slightly more likely to say they had felt less lonely during the pandemic (20% cf. 12% for high-engaged audiences and 13% for medium-engaged).

Possible reasons for this include the fact that lower-engaged audiences were less likely to have worked from home during the pandemic.

Lower-engaged audiences were also:

  • Less likely to say they had been taking part in fewer activities.
  • Less likely to say they had felt less entertained or inspired and stimulated.
  • More likely to say they felt more satisfied with their life during the pandemic than they had before (22% cf. 15% for both higher-engaged and medium-engaged).


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Another group that tended to show higher life satisfaction was families, especially those with young children:

  • 32% of respondents with a child under 16 said they were more satisfied now, compared to 14% without.
  • This figure was even higher at 43% for respondents with a child under 5.
  • 1/4 of those with children under 16 said they had felt less lonely during the pandemic, twice as many as for those without school-aged children.

Although families with children under 16 were less likely to say they felt they had time to spare in the past two weeks, they were also:

  • As likely as those without children under 16 to say they had been feeling relaxed.
  • More likely to say that they’d often or always been feeling useful (35% cf. 26%).
  • More likely to say that they are feeling close to other people (39% cf. 29%).

In terms of employment amongst this group, it is interesting to note that:

  • Respondents with a child under 16 were, at 39%, twice as likely to have been furloughed as those without.
  • 1/2 of families with a child under 5 were furloughed.

This disparity in life satisfaction and loneliness is likely influenced by a number of different factors:

  • 47% of those with children under 16 said they had socialised less with those outside their household, considerably less than the 67% of those without.
  • Although, 14% of those with children under 16 actually managed to socialise more, compared to 5% of those without.
  • The numbers are very similar for how much those with or without children under 16 reported they were able to take part in activities.
  • About one in five families with a child under 5 felt they took part in activities more during the pandemic.

Young audiences report the biggest negative impact on their wellbeing, while older audiences are less affected

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Younger audiences were much more likely than older audiences to say they had felt lonely during the pandemic, while for older groups it appears to have had a generally less dramatic effect:

  • 1/5 of the youngest group, aged 16-24, said they often or always felt lonely.
  • Respondents over 65 were three times more likely to say that they never felt lonely than those under 35.
  • 1/3 respondents across all age groups said they felt more lonely because of the pandemic.
  • Over 45s were twice as likely to say it had had no effect on how lonely they felt compared to those under 35.

Life satisfaction by age.png

Audiences were also asked to rate their satisfaction with their lives out of 10:

  • Older audiences tended to have higher life satisfaction.
  • There is a clear disparity among younger audiences, with 16-24 year olds the least satisfied of all age groups and those aged 25-34 among the most satisfied.
  • About 40% of respondents across almost all age groups, apart from 29% of those aged 25-34 (where we find many of the young families), said that they were now less satisfied with their lives than they had been before the pandemic.
  • At 1 in 3, audiences under 35 were the most likely to say they were now more satisfied with their life.
  • But the likelihood of respondents saying their level of satisfaction had not changed rose with age, with 55% of audiences older than 65 saying this (cf. 29% of 16-24 and 38% of 25-34).

Socialising by age.png

Satisfaction levels being less affected among older audiences is despite the fact that their lifestyles have been more impacted in terms of socialising and they are less likely to have taken up new activities to pass the time:

  • Older respondents were less likely to have socialised outside of their households
  • Some younger audiences had actually managed to socialise more.
  • Young audiences were more likely to say that during they pandemic they had a been inspired or stimulated, had learnt something new, been entertained or had done something different than usual. This was particularly true of those aged 25-34.
  • Older respondents were less sociable and active during the pandemic, but also the most likely to report no change to their sense of loneliness or life satisfaction.

Income change by age.png

The pandemic has had various impacts that disproportionately affected younger people, such as income hits, furloughing and home schooling:

  • Audiences over 65 were half as likely to have had their income reduced by the pandemic compared to those under 65, and 2/3 respondents under 35 found they had more free time compared to one in three respondents over 65.
  • A substantial increase in free time and home working has likely contributed to younger people be more likely to say that they have felt lonely..
  • Nearly half of those over 65 reported no change to either their income or free time, compared to just 10% of those aged 16-24 and 20% of those aged 25-34.

This difference clearly emerges around retirement age, and it can be seen again when respondents were shown a list of statements and asked to assess how frequently they had felt or thought in these ways over the last two weeks.

  • 1/3 of those under 65 said they rarely or never felt optimistic about the future, compared to about 20% of those over 65.
  • Between 25-30% of those under 65 never or rarely felt good about themselves, compared to 15% of those over 65.

The effects of the pandemic on their occupations and livelihood may have been destabilising for younger people, and some may worry they will be long term.

Engaging with Arts, Culture and Heritage has a positive impact on wellbeing

There is some evidence that taking part in arts and heritage activities in-person or online during the pandemic may have had a positive impact on audiences’ wellbeing:

  • At 80%, a large majority of audiences who participated with arts or heritage in-person during the pandemic say they found it had a positive impact on their wellbeing (with 21% saying it hadn’t, and 13% saying they are unsure).
  • This finding was especially true of those who reported finding that they had more free time during the pandemic
  • 93% of those who had more money and more time also said that engaging in arts and culture had a positive impact on their wellbeing. This group is made up largely of older audiences.

Attenders to these activities in particular were especially likely to say they found it had a positive impact on their wellbeing:

  • Visiting historic parks or gardens (83%)
  • Historic houses or heritage sites (80%)
  • Going to see a film (75%)

While these activities had a smaller impact on increasing feelings of wellbeing:

  • Outdoor festivals (60%)
  • Going to see a play or musical (60%)

Arts participation by life satisfaction.png

This perceived positive impact is reflected in how audiences reported their overall life satisfaction:

Among those who said that they had attended an arts or heritage in-person activity during the pandemic:

  • 28% reported being more satisfied with their life since the pandemic.
  • Compared to 11% of those who attended no arts or heritage in-person.
  • The figures are very similar for online activity.
  • Respondents who participated in arts and culture during the pandemic are more likely to say that their life satisfaction had improved during this period than those who participated in the year prior to the pandemic (28% cf. 21%).

Assuming considerable overlap of these two groups, this could suggest that for those who previously tended to do so, having been able to engage with arts or heritage during the pandemic did improve their life satisfaction.

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Between audiences that had engaged with arts and culture in-person during the pandemic and those that hadn’t:

  • There was no significant difference in the frequency with which they had some feelings or thoughts clearly associated with wellbeing, such as ‘I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future’, ‘I’ve been dealing with problems well’ and ‘I’ve been feeling good about myself’.
  • However, there was a noticeable difference in how engagers and non-engagers felt about the past two weeks, in terms of the statements 'I’ve been interested in other people’, ‘I’ve been feeling close to other people’ and ‘I’ve been feeling confident’.
  • 39% of those who had attended in-person arts or heritage events say they were interested in other people often or all of the time, compared to 25% of those that hadn’t.
  • This suggests that one important way that cultural engagement improves wellbeing is by giving audiences the opportunity to socialise.
  • This is supported by the finding that 27% of those who attended arts or heritage in-person during the pandemic said their main reason was ‘to do something sociable’.

More evidence and insights into ongoig audience profiles, behaviours, motivations and expectations