It seems that music softens morals, but we know much less about the advantages, if not the benefits, of poetry. The latter would however have unsuspected powers. It would allow those who write or declaim it to feel less alone, less sad, and less anxious, as revealed by a study carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused cases of anxiety and depression to skyrocket worldwide, by around 25%, according to data published by the World Health Organization (WHO). If the fear of contracting the infection and financial worries largely contributed to this increase, social isolation, and more broadly loneliness, appeared to be the main factors of stress and anxiety. Something which has pushed many organizations, associations, and other institutions to launch initiatives to overcome this problem. This is the case of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which, in partnership with the University of Plymouth and Nottingham Trent University, in the United Kingdom, launched a project allowing everyone to share and read poetry via the Poetryandcovid.com platform.
More than three years after this interface was put online, now archived under the URL Poetryandcovidarchive.com, a team of researchers from the two aforementioned universities sought to determine the impact of such an initiative on the mental health of some of its users. To do this, scientists carried out a study with 400 people who used the site to share their own verses or read those of others. It appears that writing, reading, or sharing poetry had a “positive impact” on users’ mental health during this difficult period.
“These results demonstrate the substantial power of poetry. Writing and reading poetry, as well as browsing the website, had a significant positive impact on participants’ well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic“, explains Anthony Caleshu, professor of poetry and creative writing at the University of Plymouth, in a press release. And adds: “In addition to supporting their health and well-being, the platform contributed to social and cultural recovery and provided insight into how poetry was used as a mode of discourse during the pandemic“.
Good in his body, good in his head!
In detail, the study shows that poetry helped the majority of users surveyed (51%) to manage loneliness and social isolation, while it proved essential in managing anxiety and stress. depression for 50% of respondents. “Poetry has been a lifeline throughout the pandemic, whether writing it or reading it“, says one of the users of the platform. But the simple act of browsing among the worms has made many people feel better. More than a third of the participants in the study (34%) indicate that felt “less anxious” just by consulting the website, while 24% said the interface was a great support in managing their problems.
“This study shows that creativity, combined with the possibility of safe and supportive explanations and discussions, can help people through difficult times and circumstances by providing them with outlets through which they can work to make meaning of their experience,” concludes Rory Waterman, professor of modern and contemporary literature at Nottingham Trent University.
Now archived, the platform is no less accessible to discover the approximately 1,000 poems published by more than 600 users between June 2020 and June 2021. More than 100,000 people from 125 different countries consulted them during this same period.