A recent study conducted by the University of Plymouth and Nottingham Trent University highlights the therapeutic benefits of poetry during times of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This research demonstrates how engaging with poetry—whether through reading, writing, or sharing—had a substantial positive impact on individuals’ well-being.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on people’s mental health, leading to feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression. As lockdowns and restrictions limited social interactions, individuals sought various ways to cope with these challenges.
The Healing Power of Poetry
The study focused on how poetry served as an effective coping mechanism for individuals during the pandemic.
Researchers surveyed 400 participants who utilized the website poetryandcovid.com (now archived as poetryandcovidarchive.com) to share, discuss, and engage with poetry. The results were striking:
Reducing Loneliness and Isolation: Over half (51%) of the respondents reported that reading and/or writing poetry helped them combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Poetry served as a source of connection in a time when physical distancing was required.
Easing Anxiety and Depression: Another 50% of participants found that poetry assisted them in managing anxiety and depression. The creative expression and emotional resonance of poetry provided solace during challenging moments.
Lowering Anxiety Levels: Approximately one-third (34%) of individuals felt that engaging with the website made them feel “less anxious.” The act of reading and writing poetry appeared to alleviate stress.
Enhanced Problem Handling: For 24% of participants, poetry made them “feel better able to handle my problems.” Engaging with the art form allowed them to explore their emotions and find constructive ways to address issues.
Coping with Bereavement: A notable 17% expressed that poetry helped them deal with issues related to bereavement, which was particularly poignant during the pandemic when many experienced loss.
Managing Ongoing Mental Health Symptoms: 16% of respondents found that poetry assisted in managing their ongoing mental health symptoms, offering a therapeutic outlet.
The Significance of Poetry
Principal Investigator Anthony Caleshu, Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth, emphasized the profound impact of poetry:
“These results demonstrate the substantial power of poetry… It now provides a historical archive for how people around the world used English language poetry to navigate the crisis.”
More than 100,000 people from 128 countries visited the poetryandcovid.com website, where over 1,000 poems by over 600 authors were shared.
The sense of community and the opportunity to express oneself within this platform contributed to the positive effects of poetry.
The collaborative research between the University of Plymouth and Nottingham Trent University reinforces the therapeutic value of poetry in times of adversity.
It demonstrates that poetry not only helps individuals cope with loneliness, anxiety, and depression but also contributes to social and cultural recovery.
Moreover, this study highlights the potential for creativity and expressive writing, coupled with a supportive community, to improve mental health.
It underscores the importance of artistic outlets, such as poetry, in helping people make sense of their experiences during challenging times.
In conclusion, poetry serves as a powerful tool for individuals seeking solace and connection, especially during moments of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The research findings can be found in the Journal of Poetry Therapy.
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