Using poems to help people with depression could save the NHS nearly £200,000 a year, according to research published today for National Poetry Day.
A new report based on 196 people with psychological problems found that 75% found writing poems was an emotional release.
Two thirds found reading or listening to poetry helped them be able to relax and feel calm.
And 7% weaned themselves off anti-depressants or tranquillisers using poetry and with the help of their GP.
The research is featured in a new report “Arts, Health and Well-being” that is due to be published at the end of the month.
Author Dr Robin Philipp, a consultant in occupational and public health at Bristol Royal Infirmary, said anti-depressants cost around £530 per person for a year.
Based on his findings, if poetry helped 7% of people with depression or anxiety come off medication that could amount to a potential saving of £190,000 annually for the NHS.
The study was sparked by a letter to the British Medical Journal in 1994 in which Dr Philipp and colleagues asked if reading or writing poetry helped people with mental health problems.
Dr Philipp received hundreds of letters from the general public, from people of all ages and all walks of life, as well as healthcare professionals.
“To my great surprise the letters I was getting were full of testimonies about their personal lives and experiences and the way they had found poetry very beneficial,” he said. “I was taken aback by that.”
He used 196 of the people who wrote to him to study the impact of reading and writing poetry on people with psychological difficulties.
He said there were several reasons why poetry could be beneficial and it linked in with therapies in which people were encouraged to talk about their problems.
“One person told me, if you had a whole batch of things you had to do and felt all tense and irritable about it, you would write a list.
“You would feel better about it because it was more ordered and I suppose poetry is an extrapolation of that.”
Dr Philipp is a founding member of the organisation LAPIDUS (the Association for the Literary Arts in Personal Development) which is supported by the Arts Council.
National Poetry Day is held annually and this year tomorrow October 10, the theme is Celebration.
During the day events to celebrate poetry will be held up and down the country.
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