Scientific research which claims to show visiting the attractions leads to healthier lives is now being used in the battle to fight feared cuts by insisting a drop in funds would not only affect the running of the museums, but also the health of those visiting them.

Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG), the body which receives £69m from the city council to run its galleries, museums, sports facilities and libraries, is bracing itself for a cut in its grant which could impact on the opening hours of its museums, which include the Burrell Collection and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

CSG administers the more than £3m in council funding given to more than 150 arts companies, such as the Citizens Theatre, Celtic Connections and the Tron Theatre.

The Herald understands that CSG is expecting a cut of around £1.7m from its core grant and it has been reported that other well-known names, such as the Citizens Theatre, which receives £453,000 from the council, could be set for cuts as Glasgow faces a squeeze in its funding over the next three years.

But the head of Glasgow’s museums and galleries, Mark O’Neill, says that there is overwhelming evidence that visiting museums has a powerful impact on people’s sense of well being and can help them live longer.

Mr O’Neill pointed to research published in the British Medical Journal which took a sample of 13,000 adults, first interviewing them in 1982 and then again in 1991. It showed that, after taking factors such as sex, age and smoking, into account, people who engaged in cultural events, lived longer.

Another report, in 2000, by the same researchers, of 10,000 people found “a higher mortality risk for those people who rarely visited the cinema, concerts, museums, or exhibitions compared those visiting them most often”.

In a study following a group of 9000 Swedish adults aged 25-74 between 1990 and 2003 found, after factoring in age and lifestyle, that rare attendees to art galleries and cinemas were more likely to die of cancer. It said: “Attendance at cultural events is associated with better survival and health” and added, “the results, if replicated, imply that promoting attendance at cultural events could lead to improved urban population health”.

Mr O’Neill said: “These reports show that the effects of cultural activities, and the benefits they bring, have a real and scientific basis. Culture is good for your health. Cultural activities make life more interesting for people.

“We have known for a long time that attending cultural events make you feel better, but it has taken until recently to have research to back it up.”

He pointed to other research that helps back the case for the healthiness of cultural activity.

A 2007 study into poor mothers in Beirut by the Centre for Research on Population and Health shows that “maternal cultural participation was a significant predictor of child health status in impoverished urban communities”.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Until complete details of local government settlement funding are known, it is difficult to comment on any possible future impact on cultural funding.”

A CSG spokesman added: “Discussions are ongoing with the council to identify where savings can be made with the least impact on jobs and services.”