Cover: Impact of Veteran Journeys Opera on Audience Member Attitudes Related to Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress or Unstable Housing

Impact of Veteran Journeys Opera on Audience Member Attitudes Related to Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress or Unstable Housing

Published in: Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (2022). doi: 10.1037/aca0000503

Posted on rand.org Oct 4, 2023

by Robert M. Bilder, Joseph Mango, Kia Skrine Jeffers, Lingqi Tang, Marissa Stinnett, Angelo Constantino, Lily Zhang, Kenneth B. Wells

Few studies have assessed the impact of operas on audience engagement in social issues and psychological well-being. This study evaluated a streaming opera's effects on measures of audience engagement important to Veterans' recovery from posttraumatic stress and unstable housing. Among 185 attendees, 137 completed at least part of the pre- or postopera surveys, and 45 completed both pre- and postopera surveys. Participants also shared 31 comments and 34 Zoom chat submissions. The primary outcome was change in willingness to engage in social activities, work, and family relationships with Veterans with posttraumatic stress or unstable housing. Secondary outcomes included measures of movement toward greater engagement, hope for Veterans Affairs (VA) response, positive and negative affect, arousal, and social connectedness. There was a large increase in overall willingness to engage with Veterans who have posttraumatic stress or unstable housing (Cohen's d = .74). Similar increases were observed among those reporting personal experience with trauma or unstable housing, despite high baseline willingness to engage. Postopera movement toward engagement correlated with postopera ratings of positive affect, social connectedness, and arousal. Qualitative comments highlighted the inspirational and emotionally connected structural features of the work along with concerns about witnessing trauma and abuse. These findings suggest that opera may be an effective vehicle to promote engagement with clinical and social concerns. The results further show that increased willingness to engage is associated with psychological well-being. The qualitative results may inform creation of future presentations in both content and style to maximize beneficial impacts and community uptake.

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