Optimising online cultural content to positively impact mental health in young people


Friday, April 16, 2021: 2:00pm - 3:30pm - - Paper Session

Helen Adams, GLAM, University of Oxford, UK, Rebecca Sheriff, University of Oxford, UK, Clare Cooper-Hammond, Imagineear , United Kingdom

Published paper: Optimising online cultural content to positively impact mental health in young people

Museums and cultural spaces are increasingly being recognised by social and healthcare systems to offer positive benefits for mental health and wellbeing. However, there has been little research to date asking if and how online cultural content (OCC) also has a part to play. The situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity to undertake research in this area due to several things happening at the same time – the closure of cultural venues, a surge in online activity, a spike in mental health problems (particularly among young people) and a reduction in support services.

A joint project undertaken by museum and psychiatry staff at the University of Oxford in 2020 set out to find out what kinds of OCC offer mental health benefits and to understand why they are effective. Using systematic reviews, sector analysis, user surveys, interviews, and focus groups, the project not only sought to identify the neural mechanisms at play, but to put those findings into action. An intensive co-production sprint to embed learning led to a targeted intervention that was tested and evaluated in a medical experiment to measure responses relating to, for example, mood, dichotomous thinking, decision-making, self-esteem, empathy, and concentration. This session shares the process and results from the research, and provides evidence-based, practical guidance on creating digital content designed to combat anxiety and depression in young people.

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