Professor Stephen Clift

Professor Stephen Clift

Stephen Clift, Professor of Health Education in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Canterbury Christ Church University and Director of Research at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, talks about the work of the Centre and a number of international studies that indicate causal benefits to health.

The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, based at Canterbury Christ Church University conducts research largely around singing and health. It is currently working on three projects:

  • developing an East Kent network of singing groups for mental health service users
  • a randomised controlled trial of singing groups with older people
  • a project to assess the value of participation in group singing for people with chronic lung disease.
  • it is also exploring new directions for the Centre’s work in the areas of drumming, dance, theatre and reading for wellbeing.

One of its major achievements is assisting the development of ‘Sing For Your Life Ltd’ – which provides opportunities for elderly people, many affected by age-related health issues, to come together and sing on a regular basis in ‘Silver Song Clubs’. More than 50 song club sessions are organized every month across the South East of England.


“The De Haan Centre has undertaken a systematic mapping and critical review of all the published research related to singing and wellbeing … the findings from a number of recent studies in this area point to the considerable benefits for wellbeing and physical health which can come from active participation in singing. Key studies have been reported by Gene Cohen in the United States, which show that for people in post-retirement, regular experience of group singing has considerable benefits for health. A recent controlled trial in Brazil has also shown some benefits from group singing for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”


“I think we need to consider a broad spectrum of arts activity in relation to health – from prevention to treatment to rehabilitation, as well as recognizing the importance of vibrant community arts activities for people across the whole of the lifespan. Engagement of young people in creative activities is so essential – which is why projects such as ‘Find Your Talent’ and ‘Sing Up’ are so welcome.”

“I think we have made tremendous progress with wonderful practical projects across the length and breadth of the country; an increasing body of well designed research projects; new journals dedicated to arts and health work, and many conferences reporting on new developments. What is needed now is a clear strategic vision on a national basis.”

“…What we are doing in relation to singing, other practitioners and researchers need to do for dance, drama, creative writing, reading, visual arts, ceramics, embroidery, quilting, storytelling, and every other form of artistic and craft practice which can help to enrich people’s lives.”

Stephen Clift is also one of the Executive Editors of Arts & Health: An international journal for research, policy and practice, and Chair of South East Arts and Health, a regional networking and advocacy organisation covering South East England.

Taken from ‘Restoring the balance’, a Voluntary Arts England publication. Download the full interview with Stephen Clift or the full pdf of ‘Restoring the balance‘.





Alcoholism Alzheimer's Arthritis Autism Cancer Crafts Crohn's Disease Cystic Fibrosis Dance Dementia Down's Syndrome Heart Hepatitis C HIV and AIDS Lungs Mind MS Multiple Sclerosis Music Parkinson's Poetry Singing Stroke Visual arts Writing