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Which came first - arts engagement or a better quality of life?

I refer to Akshita Nanda's article, Ageing Well, Thanks To The Arts (Life, Sept 7).

The survey led by Professor Andy Ho of the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University suggests that the attendance of arts-related events and participation in the arts lead to increased mental and physical health and a better quality of life for Singaporeans aged 50 and above.

I am not privy to the exact method of the survey, but I wonder about the tendency to draw the conclusion that confirms what we want to believe - that engagement in the arts leads to a better quality of life.

The survey finds that there is correlation between quality of life and engagement in the arts. Instead of surmising that arts engagement leads to a better quality of life, it may well be that seniors who already enjoy a better quality of life, who are physically and mentally healthy, are more likely to engage in the arts.

As correlation may not imply causation, it should be stated how the survey came to the conclusion that the arts helps in ageing well.

Colin Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Which came first - arts engagement or a better quality of life?'. Print Edition | Subscribe