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Research Reveals Poetry’s Potent Role in Easing Loneliness and Anxiety

A recent study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and conducted by the University of Plymouth and Nottingham Trent University reveals that poetry can be a powerful tool for managing feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and hopelessness. The study, based on a sample of 400 individuals, highlights the positive impact of poetry on mental well-being, particularly during challenging times such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research focused on users of the website poetryandcovidarchive.com, which served as a platform for individuals to share and read poetry during the pandemic. Results indicate that 51% of respondents found that reading and/or writing poetry helped them cope with feelings of loneliness or isolation, while another 50% reported that it aided in dealing with anxiety and sadness.

Noteworthy findings from the study include:

  • 34% felt “less anxious” after engaging with poetry.
  • 24% felt “better able to handle my problems.”
  • 17% found it helpful in dealing with bereavement issues.
  • 16% reported improvement in ongoing mental health symptoms.

Principal Investigator Anthony Caleshu, Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth, emphasized the substantial power of poetry in positively impacting the participants’ well-being during the pandemic. The website, which featured over 1,000 poems submitted by more than 600 authors from around the world, not only supported individual health but also contributed to social and cultural recovery.

More than 100,000 people from 128 countries visited the website, creating a global community centered around the shared experience of using poetry as a coping mechanism. Participants expressed the importance of poetry as a lifeline, both in reading and writing, offering a means to navigate complex emotions.

Co-investigator Dr Rory Waterman, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at Nottingham Trent University, highlighted the study’s suggestion that creative and expressive writing, when coupled with a community-building platform, can positively impact people’s health. The study encourages further exploration of the potential therapeutic benefits of various creative arts in fostering resilience during challenging times.

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