Circus training delivers multiple mental health benefits for children, and cost savings to the broader community, an Australian study reveals.
Programs comprising after-school or holiday activities in which children aged between nine and 14 learn to tightrope-walk, swing from a trapeze, and variously tumble, jump and juggle, are available in some, but by no means all, communities.
However, the findings from a small study conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia, however, suggest they should be as ubiquitous as junior football, netball or basketball squads.
Writing in the International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure, Richard McGrath and Kristen Stevens report on several outcomes fo a group 23 children who undertook six months of circus training.
The participants were interviewed before, during and after the program.
“Results indicated positive impacts for children’s mental wellbeing, socialisation skills, physical enjoyment and resilience,” the researchers report.
They add that upticks were also recorded in confidence, self-esteem and stress reduction.
The benefits of encouraging kids to run away (if only for an hour or two each week) to the circus extended well beyond the participants.
McGrath and Stevens fed the results into a model known as Social Return on Investment (SROI), which forecasts long-term community economic impacts of any given activity.
“The SROI analysis found that for every one dollar invested, $7 of social return may be generated due to participation in a circus-arts program,” they report.
Savings included decreased costs incurred by individuals, families and the health system because of a reduced risk of the children developing illness associated with poor self-esteem or lack of confidence, such as depression and anxiety.
Andrew Masterson is a former editor of Cosmos.
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