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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Poems could cut NHS drugs bill
Writing poems helped patients put things in order
Poems could help the NHS to save hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, a report suggests.

Research carried out for National Poetry Day on Thursday suggests that poetry could be an effective weapon against depression.

The report says that writing poetry can help many people to cope with depression and can even enable some people to come off medication.

The doctors who carried out the research estimated that the NHS could save almost 200,000 in drug costs alone each year.

Dr Robin Philipp, a consultant in occupational and public health at Bristol Royal Infirmary, based his findings on a study of 196 people with psychological problems.

Emotional release

He found that three-quarters of patients found writing poems was an emotional release.

Two thirds found reading or listening to poetry helped them be able to relax and feel calm.

A further 7% said they were able to wean themselves off anti-depressants or tranquillisers using poetry and with the help of their GP.

Dr Philipp estimated that anti-depressants cost in the region of 530 per patient per year.

He suggested that if 7% of patients could be weaned off their drugs savings to the NHS could be 190,000 annually.

The study was sparked by a letter to the British Medical Journal in 1994 in which Dr Philipp and colleagues asked if reading or writing poetry helped people with mental health problems.

Dr Philipp received hundreds of letters from the general public, from people of all ages and all walks of life, as well as healthcare professionals.

"To my great surprise the letters I was getting were full of testimonies about their personal lives and experiences and the way they had found poetry very beneficial," he said. "I was taken aback by that."

He used 196 of the people who wrote to him to study the impact of reading and writing poetry on people with psychological difficulties.

Several reasons

He said there were several reasons why poetry could be beneficial and it linked in with therapies in which people were encouraged to talk about their problems.

"One person told me, if you had a whole batch of things you had to do and felt all tense and irritable about it, you would write a list.

"You would feel better about it because it was more ordered and I suppose poetry is an extrapolation of that."

The research is featured in a new report "Arts, Health and Well-being", to be published at the end of the month.

National Poetry Day will be marked by a variety of events across the country on Thursday.

The theme of this year's event is Celebration.

See also:

01 May 02 | England
04 Oct 01 | Entertainment
30 Sep 00 | Education
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