HES: Is history and heritage good for your health?

Scotland seascapeHistoric Environment Scotland’s (HES) Bryony Donnelly has ‘blogsplored’ how to boost mental and physical fitness – and navigate between the coronavirus pandemic, enforced social distancing and a lockdown – by spending time with Scotland’s history.

image: for illustration purposes only – Fiona Newton

….give us a clearer idea of how heritage can improve wellbeing.

Accessing heritage digitally is one potential way to increase inclusion…

HES writes:

Before my world was reduced to a single daily walk, within five miles of my tenement flat, I would admire other cities’ architecture and the sprawling natural landscapes of places far away.

Like many of you who responded to our survey on wellbeing and heritage, I’ve always appreciated history. Interesting and inspiring stories of past people, places and events. Beautiful and awe-inspiring settings (which Scotland is not short of!) and that feeling of being connected to something, a bigger story and lives lived long before mine.

But it was only when Scotland went into lockdown that I really began to appreciate the benefits of the heritage much closer to home.

Heritage in a time of crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has directly impacted all of us, physically and emotionally.

Individuals, households and communities continue to be hit hard and in unequal ways, by the virus, lockdown measures and the ongoing economic impact. It’s impossible to predict the long term ramifications of COVID-19.

Like many organisations, Historic Environment Scotland are looking to the raft of research into health and wellbeing from before and during the pandemic to find some insight into making this incredibly difficult experience more manageable for Scotland’s people.

Our research into the links between heritage and wellbeing has revealed that Scotland’s history could play a role for some of us in getting through these trying times.

What you told us

Last year, we asked almost 800 people, including Historic Scotland members and others engaged with the historic environment, to respond to a survey and give us a clearer idea of how heritage can improve wellbeing.

86% of respondents reported a health or wellbeing benefit from engagement with the historic environment:

  • 76% reported their overall life satisfaction improved
  • 78% reported feeling happier
  • 68% reported improved sense of being worthwhile
  • 59% felt healthier because of their engagement
  • 29% felt less anxious due to engagement

We hope to build on this to see how benefits from heritage can be rolled out to people who aren’t history lovers (yet!) and to those who would benefit most from a wellbeing uplift.

Living local

It’s hard to imagine how different the responses might have looked only a few months later as we plunged into an international health crisis.

At the time, 93% of respondents said they visited historic places, with 29% visiting several times in the past year. It would be easy to assume this number would go down, with travel restricted and the tourism industry in Scotland only being liberated in the middle of July.

But more people than ever might be engaging with their local heritage and reaping the wellbeing benefits – they just might not know it.

Read more….

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