A case study into how a group of people in later life use metaphor to describe the relationship between creative activity and subjective wellbeing
The beneficial effect of creative activities on individuals’ subjective wellbeing has become a popular and academic given in recent years. Yet the creative processes occurring in a complex, non-drug intervention and their relationship with perceived beneficial effects on wellbeing are difficult to define. Health professionals, arts practitioners and commentators alike identify the need for the development of a multi-disciplinary vocabulary that reflects the interests and values inherent in this rapidly developing discipline. Newcastle University’s “Ageing Creatively” project was an 18-month pilot study to explore the relationship of creative arts interventions to wellbeing in later life (Adams, Thomas & Thomson, 2014). This paper presents the results of metaphor analysis in a series of exit interviews with 31 participants. One-to-one interviews were administered by telephone or in person by specialist, creative arts researchers and each interview was semi-structured using the CASP-12 questionnaire, which aims to measure quality of life in the third age (Sim et al., 2011). The Metaphor Identification Procedure was applied (double-blind) by hand to the transcribed corpus of c.93,000 words, inputted into MS Excel and then discursively coded with vehicles by the researchers. Two dominant vehicle groupings emerged that suggest subjective wellbeing amongst the participant group is conceptualized using the container image schema and the source-path-goal image schema. We therefore propose two systematic, novel metaphors — wellbeing is a container and wellbeing is a journey — as meaningful alternatives to Lakoff and Johnson’s conceptual metaphor wellbeing is wealth, especially in the search to better understand the relationship between creative activities and subjective wellbeing. Our findings suggest that systematic metaphor analysis may be usefully incorporated into the range of social science methodologies available for the measurement of subjective wellbeing.
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