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Objectives This study aimed to understand young people's perception of the potential utility of arts and culture, focusing on online access, for supporting their mental health. Design A qualitative interview study. Setting Online. Participants Participants were selected by purposeful sampling from an online survey of arts and culture for mental health and well-being. Method Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted from 30 July 2020 to 9 September 2020. Rich interview data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results Thirteen participants aged 18-24 who were socio-demographically diverse and varied in their use of online arts and culture (OAC) and in their level of psychological distress were interviewed. Six themes, 'Characteristics of other activities', 'Online engagement', 'Human connection', 'Mechanisms of impact', 'Mental health outcomes' and 'Engagement optimisation', were identified along with subthemes. Participants identified that online engagement had some advantages over in-person engagement and benefits were greater with familiarity and regular use. Participants described that human connection was the feature of OAC most likely to benefit mental health and emphasised the importance of representation. Mechanisms included improving perspective, reflection, learning, escapism, creativity, exploration and discovery. Outcomes were described as the disruption of negative thought patterns, lifting of mood and increased feelings of calm and proactivity. Conclusions This study demonstrates that young people have a critical level of insight and understanding regarding their mental health and ways in which it might be improved. These findings can be used to optimise the mental health benefits of OAC in an engaging and acceptable way for young people. These methodologies could be applied to other types of community resources for mental health.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date