Suggested reading from the World Health Organisation/Europe

Cultural contexts of health: the use of narrative research in the health sector (2016)

Storytelling is an essential tool for reporting and illuminating the cultural contexts of health: the practices and behaviour that groups of people share and that are defined by customs, language and geography. This report reviews the literature on narrative research, offers some quality criteria for appraising it and gives three detailed case examples: diet and nutrition, well-being and mental health in refugees and asylum seekers.
Storytelling and story interpretation belong to the humanistic disciplines and are not a pure science, although established techniques of social science can be applied to ensure rigour in sampling and data analysis. The case studies illustrate how narrative research can convey the individual experience of illness and well-being, thereby complementing and sometimes challenging epidemiological and public health evidence.

What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review (2019)

Over the past two decades, there has been a major increase in research into the effects of the arts on health and well-being, alongside developments in practice and policy activities in different countries across the WHO European Region and further afield. This report synthesizes the global evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, with a specific focus on the WHO European Region. Results from over 3000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan. The reviewed evidence included study designs such as uncontrolled pilot studies, case studies, small-scale cross-sectional surveys, nationally representative longitudinal cohort studies, community-wide ethnographies and randomized controlled trials from diverse disciplines. The beneficial impact of the arts could be furthered through acknowledging and acting on the growing evidence base; promoting arts engagement at the individual, local and national levels; and supporting cross-sectoral collaboration.

When silence is not a virtue: how traditional masculinities keep men from seeking mental health advice

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, 10 October, WHO/Europe focuses on how masculinity norms can discourage men from recognizing and seeking help for mental health problems. A new Health Evidence Network (HEN) report on Mental health, men, and culture, launched by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, gives concrete recommendations on how policy-makers can address certain mental health issues arising from traditional patterns of masculinity.
Across the Region, suicide rates among men are approximately 3 times higher than among women. These high rates are often linked to traditional masculinity factors, such as not talking about feelings. But the degree to which the cultural contexts of masculinity norms impact on help-seeking in relation to mental health has not yet been systematically explored.
The HEN report on Mental health, men, and culture is the first comprehensive review of this topic. Building on WHO/Europe’s Strategy on the health and well-being of men in the WHO European Region, the report examines available academic literature, in English and Russian languages, on how sociocultural constructions of masculinities relate to men’s mental health help-seeking behaviour in the Region. The analysis from the report highlights some key themes pertaining to the role of culturally constructed masculinities.

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