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New Research from Adobe Foundation and NAMI Shows Powerful Benefits of Creative Activities on Mental Health, Especially for Young People, LGBTQ+ Community

Jun 20 2023

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 20, 2023 — We are living through a crisis that doesn’t get the same attention as pandemics or wars, but it is very real — and getting much worse. It is a mental health crisis, and it disproportionality impacts youths, the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups.

With mental health conditions, loneliness and suicidal thoughts on the rise, the Adobe Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have joined to explore how creative expression can help turn that tide. Today, they released a new study that explores the potential of creativity to support our mental well-being.

The study, “Creative Approaches for Managing Mental Health,” surveyed nearly 2,000 people aged 13+. It reveals strong personal and mental health benefits for those who engage in creative activities, especially among marginalized communities.

Transformative Benefits of Creativity

Among those who report engaging in any creative activity, nearly two-thirds (63%) identified an improved sense of confidence in their abilities as a benefit, while a similar number (61%) said that creative activities reduce their feelings of stress or anxiety. In addition, 57% said it improves their overall mental well-being.

Younger people (aged 13–25) were more likely than the general population aged 18+ to say that a strengthened sense of identity or purpose (50% vs. 47%) and the possibility to develop a sense of belonging in a community (37% vs. 33%) were benefits.

A similar but even more striking trend is found in the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ respondents were more likely than heterosexual respondents to say that reduced feelings of depression or hopelessness (57% vs. 44%) and the possibility to develop a sense of belonging in a community (42% vs. 31%) were potential benefits of engaging in a creative activity.

Motivations Behind Creative Expression

When asked about their personal motivations to begin creating in the first place, 41% pointed to a desire to reduce stress or anxiety, while 38% said they wanted to express their thoughts or feelings.

Those motives were even stronger among young people (aged 13–25). Almost half (46%) began to engage in creative activities to reduce stress or anxiety and 44% wanted to express their thoughts or feelings.

Just as the LGBTQ+ community finds especially strong benefits in creativity, they also feel stronger personal motivations to get involved to begin with. LGBTQ+ respondents were far more likely than heterosexuals to start creating in order to reduce stress or anxiety (53% vs. 39%) and to express thoughts or feelings (49% vs. 36%).

Communal aspects of creativity were woven throughout the survey, with 35% of all respondents indicating that they were motivated to start creating due to inspiration from friends or family who already engaged in the activity. More than one-quarter (27%) of creators also said they engage in their creative activity socially, with a group of fellow creators or artists.

Abundance and Diversity of Creators

No matter the benefits or motivations, creative activities are extremely popular, with a vast majority (60%) of all respondents taking part.

Once again, younger people were much more likely than older respondents to say they engage in a creative activity (72% aged 13–25 vs. 59% of adults 18+). The margin is even wider when comparing LGBTQ+ respondents and heterosexuals (75% vs. 58%).

The most popular creative activities among the creators themselves were photography (24%) and drawing or painting with digital media (18%). Younger creators (aged 13–17) preferred drawing or painting with physical media (32%) and playing an instrument, singing or composing music (29%).

“At Adobe, we recognize the opportunity to empower creative expression as a pathway to impact positive mental health outcomes for our community,” said Amy White, Adobe’s Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. “Through the Adobe Foundation and efforts with NAMI, our goal is to illuminate our commitment toward better understanding the role creative expression plays in supporting mental health outcomes and giving more people access to the resources and tools they need to share their stories and reach their full potential.”

“At NAMI, we want people with mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that they are not alone,” said Daniel H. Gillison Jr., NAMI’s Chief Executive Officer. “Creativity resonates deeply within us, especially young and LGBTQ+ people, providing the power to heal and a sense of community. It gives us a common language to voice our experiences, validate our feelings and envision a more inclusive world.

“We’re grateful to the Adobe Foundation for this collaboration, which showcases our shared commitment to promoting mental health through creative expression and storytelling.”

The insights gained from the survey will shape future strategies for both the Adobe Foundation and NAMI, including NAMI’s Person-First storytelling initiative, which will use video and imagery to magnify people’s personal stories and lived experiences.

Methodology: The “Creative Approaches for Managing Mental Health” survey was conducted April 13–May 10, 2023, by NORC at the University of Chicago. It included interviews with 1,897 respondents age 13+.

The Adobe Foundation creates positive change through support for creative and digital literacy, social equity and opportunity, and active engagement in the community. The Adobe Foundation is a private foundation created and funded by Adobe. Find out more here.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. Join the conversation at | | | | | |