BREAKING OUT OF THE SNOW CAVE: The significance of colour in healthcare environments

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Empirical observations of the positive effect on health outcomes of beautiful objects, their variety and the brilliance of colour has been observed for at least 120 years. Nevertheless, white-walled hospital environments are still often found that lack the stimulation of aesthetic objects and colour. While various studies have been carried out on healing arts and colour, to develop an evidence base for the empirical observations, clear cut evidence is scarce, inconclusive or questionable.

Departing from a phenomenological approach that qualitatively investigated patients’ experience and use of visual art during hospitalization, the authors set out to expand and qualify the evidence base for the significance of art and colour in healthcare environments by using an anthropological methodology. Two qualitative experimental case studies were carried out in two hospitals. 98 hospitalized patients situated in 5 dayrooms and 14 single-bedded patient rooms were interviewed and a larger sample was observed. Additionally, quantitative data from thermal cameras, a psycho-physiological EEG-experiment, a ranking study and a survey informed and qualified the analysis of the qualitative data.

The study concludes that the presence of coloured visual art in hospitals contributes to health outcomes as an extended form of healthcare by improving patients’ well-being and satisfaction. Moreover, an analysis of data from primarily qualitative interviews, the ranking study and the quantitative survey found the element of colour in visual art to be of more significance for the patients’ experience and use of the art, in relation to its composition and motif. Overall, patients ranked/preferred art in brighter colours over dark; furthermore, visual art to a higher extent was shown to have a positive effect if its colours were perceived more bright than dark. Hence, patients experienced more positive memories and emotions and bodily ease and joy, if they perceived the colours of the art as more bright than dark. The overall experience of the artworks was also shown to be more positive for the brighter perceived pieces than the darker. Finally, the use of the art in social interaction occurred to a higher degree and was more positive in relation to brighter colours than darker.

From this, the study clarifies the potentials of colour and art in hospitals while expanding and qualifying the current application of guidelines in healthcare environments.
Publikationsdatojun. 2017
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2017
BegivenhedEuropean Healthcare Design Congress 2017: Visioning the future: Designing for change in people-centred health systems - Royal College of Physicians, London, Storbritannien
Varighed: 11 jun. 201714 jun. 2017


KonferenceEuropean Healthcare Design Congress 2017
LokationRoyal College of Physicians


  • Colour
  • Well-being
  • Healthcare