Group of people standing in front of church building with plants in front of them

Members of the St Mungo's volunteer gardening group at St Peter's Church, Castle Park, Bristol © Historic England DP248591
Members of the St Mungo's volunteer gardening group at St Peter's Church, Castle Park, Bristol © Historic England DP248591

Heritage and Society

Heritage plays a significant role in society, enhancing our wellbeing and quality of life, improving the way places are perceived, and engaging the general public. 

Heritage and Society is produced each year by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum (HEF). This document provides the body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of heritage to individuals and communities using reliable studies that are referenced and hyperlinked for anyone seeking more detailed information. The evidence presented here can be used by anyone who seeks to understand the social value of heritage and advocate for the historic environment.

For 2019, Heritage and society includes a more developed exploration of evidence from research for the connections between heritage and good mental and physical health. The document highlights new evidence of the positive therapeutic effects of ‘green’ and ‘blue’ spaces and historic landscapes on subjective wellbeing and happiness, and is illustrated by case studies featuring evidence and evaluation methods.

Key findings include:

  • Attitudes towards heritage and its protection are significantly positive: between 93% and 95% of Taking Part respondents agree that “It is important to me that heritage buildings or places are well looked after”
  • The heritage sector has reduced its barriers to access: the gap between heritage visitors facing a long term illness or disability compared to the rest of the population has halved to 4% since 2005/6
  • Visiting heritage sites is estimated to save the NHS over £193.2 million by reducing demand for GP visits and psychotherapy
  • Heritage landscapes and the prehistoric monuments within them are an untapped resource for developing mental health interventions and delivering programmes that can support social prescribing outcomes with community and health service providers
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