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WALL COLOR OF PATIENT'S ROOM: EFFECTS ON RECOVERY
KORTNEY JO EDGE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF INTERIOR DESIGN
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Kortney Jo Edge
I want to thank my thesis committee for their assistance in the completion of this
thesis. Dr. M. Jo Hasell and Dr. John P. Marsden were able to successfully guide me
through the trials and tribulations of this research project.
My sincere thanks go out to the wonderful staff at Shands Hospital for the
knowledge they provided me about the workings of a hospital. Brad Pollitt and Tina
Mullen provided information from the perspective of the facilities department. Dr.
Paulus, Dr. Gravenstein, and Dr. Graham-Pole provided valuable insight into the area of
healing and recovery.
A special thank you goes out to Marcia Kent and the entire staff of the cardiac care
unit of Shands Hospital. Their cooperation and interest in this study made it an extremely
Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to thank my family and friends. Without
their constant support and encouragement this project would have never been completed.
They provided me with the strength to follow my dreams.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... .................................................................................... iii
L IST O F TA B L E S ...................... .. ........ ........................ .. .... ...... ...... ....... vi
LIST OF FIGURES ............ ......... ......................... viii
ABSTRACT ........ .............. ............. ...... ...................... ix
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
P u rp o se ............................................................................. 1
S ig n ific a n c e .......................................................... ................ .. 2
B asic A ssum ptions........... ... .............................................................. ......... .... .5
Hypotheses of the Study ............................................ .... .... ................ .6
Sum m ary ...................................... ................................... .................... 6
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ......................................................... .............. 8
C o lo r E x p lain ed ..................................................................................... .. 8
Historical Overview of Beliefs About the Healing Power of Color.............................9
Intuition, Beliefs, and Research-Based Evidence About the Effects of Color ...........12
Laboratory Studies on Human Responses to Color................... ............................ 13
C hrom therapy E explained .............................................................. .................. 16
Cardiac Illness and Patient Responses to Environmental Factors............................17
Summary ............ ........................... .......................................19
3 M E T H O D O L O G Y ............................................................................ ................... 20
H ypotheses ................................................. 21
R e se arch S ettin g ................................................................................................... 2 2
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 2 7
D ata C o lle ctio n ..................................................................................................... 2 8
Gaining Consent ...... .................... .......... ........29
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory................ ........... ......... 30
Documenting Length of Stay and Medication Requests .............. ................ 31
Discussions with Staff and Patients ........................................32
4 F IN D IN G S .................................................................................. 3 3
A nx iety L ev el ....................................................... 33
G ender and A nxiety ............ .................................................... .. .... ........ 37
W indow V iew and A nxiety ..................................................................... .. .... 39
Surgery and Anxiety .................. ............................ ........ .. ............ 41
L en g th o f S tay ...........................................................................................4 4
Pain M education R equests................................................. .............................. 45
Patients' Opinions About the Colors ........................................ ...................... 49
Hospital Employee's Opinions About the Colors ............................................... 51
5 D ISCU SSION .............. .... .. ..... ............... ............................53
Limitations and Assumptions .................................. .....................................57
Suggestions for Further Research................. ............... ....................59
C conclusion .......................................................................................................... 62
Fram ew ork for Future Researchers ........................................ ........................ 63
APPENDIX STATE-TRAIT ANXIETY INVENTORY (STAI).................................66
L IST O F R EFE R E N C E S ............................................................................. ............. 67
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................70
LIST OF TABLES
2.1 Hum an Responses to Color .............................................................................15
3.1 Number of male and female patients who occupied each colored room ..............28
4.1 Average anxiety levels of patients occupying rooms of each color....................34
4.2 Chi-squared test for color and anxiety levels .............. .......................................36
4.3 Fischer's Exact Test on color and anxiety levels............................................37
4.4 Number of male and female patients who occupied each colored room ..............37
4.5 Anxiety scores of the female and male patients ...............................................38
4.6 Number of patients in each colored room based upon location of bed..................40
4.7 Mean anxiety scores for patients in relation to their proximity to a window........40
4.8 Number of surgery and observation patients in each set of colored rooms...........41
4.9 Mean anxiety levels of surgery patients and observation patients......................42
4.10 Mean anxiety of the surgery patients based upon the color of the room they
4.11 Chi-squared test on color and anxiety levels within surgery patients....................43
4.12 Mean anxiety of the observation patients based upon the color of the room they
4.13 Chi-squared test on color and anxiety levels within observation patients ............44
4.14 Average length of stay for surgery and observation patients recovering in each
set of colored room s ............................................................ ...... .......... .... 4 5
4.15 Number of patients who requested medication during their stay in each colored
room ............................................................................... 4 6
4.16 Average number of medication requests by surgery patients during their stay in
the hospital. .........................................................................47
4.17 Average number of medication requests by observation patients who request
pain medication during their stay in the hospital. .............................................49
LIST OF FIGURES
3.1 Layout of the fifth floor cardiac care unit at Shands Hospital. ............................23
3.2 Enlarged layout of a typical room in the cardiac care unit at Shands Hospital........25
3.3 Purple paint color. ................................ ... ........... .. ............26
3.4 Green paint color .................................. .. .. .. .. ...... .. ............26
3.5 Orange paint color ......................... ..... .. ... ............. ......... 27
3.6 B eige paint color. .......................... ...... .................................... .. ..... 27
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Interior Design
WALL COLOR OF PATIENT'S ROOM: EFFECTS ON RECOVERY
Kortney Jo Edge
Chair: M. Joyce Hasell
Cochair: John P. Marsden
Major Department: Interior Design
This pilot study examined the effects of the environmental factor color on a
patient's recovery in the hospital. The literature suggested that there are many widely
held beliefs and intuitions about the healing powers of color. However, this researcher
found no scientific studies on color completed within a natural hospital setting, rather
than in a laboratory.
Based on previous research on environmental factors, the recovery of cardiac
patients was examined by assessing their anxiety levels, lengths of stay, and medication
requests, within a control setting and an experimental setting. The study was conducted
within ten rooms of a hospital cardiac care unit. A mid-tone shade of either purple,
green, or orange was painted on the wall at the foot of the bed in six of the patients'
rooms. Beige was the paint color in the other four rooms. An anxiety test was given to
the 39 participants in the study to determine if a particular color promoted a higher level
of anxiety. The participants' lengths of stay and medication requests were also noted to
determine if these variables were affected by the particular color painted in each room.
Informal interviews were also conducted on the patients and staff regarding their
particular preferences for certain colors. Throughout the study, notes were kept regarding
patient and staff comments about the colors.
There were no significant findings to determine that anxiety levels, lengths of stay,
or medication requests were dependent upon the color of the patient's room. Having no
significant findings is believed to be caused mainly by the small sample size.
Additionally, the pilot study revealed numerous variables that may also play a role in
patient recovery. Many things about conducting a study within a hospital environment
were learned through this study and a framework for future research in the area of color
in the medical environment was developed. The guidelines for future research provided
in this study recommend further testing in a natural research setting such as a hospital to
learn more about the role that color plays on patient well-being.
As early as 1888, Florence Nightingale asserted that environmental factors have an
effect on health and recovery. She was quoted as saying (Palmer and Nash, 1997:148);
The effect in sickness of beautiful objects, of variety of objects, and especially of
colour is hardly at all appreciated. I have seen in fevers (and felt, when I was a
fever patient myself) the most acute suffering produced from the patient not being
able to see out of a window and the knots in the wood being the only view. I shall
never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright coloured flowers.
People say the effect is only in the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the
body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by
colour, and by light, we do know this; they have an actual physical effect. Variety
of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients are actual
means of recovery.
The purpose of this study is to explore how one environmental feature, namely
color, may impact patient recovery in the cardiac care unit of Shands Hospital in
Gainesville, Florida. Shands Hospital is located at the University of Florida and is a 576-
bed private, not-for-profit hospital. Shands specializes in tertiary care for critically ill
patients and is the primary teaching hospital for the University of Florida College of
Medicine. Using the cardiac care unit of the hospital is significant to this study because
medical researchers believe that coronary diseases are substantially influenced by
environmental factors related to stress (MacMahon and Lip, 2002).
Designers have a responsibility for creating spaces that will help patients to become
healthier in a shorter amount of time. Poor design is believed to be associated with
anxiety, delirium, elevated blood pressure, and an increased intake of pain medication
(Ulrich, 1991). Although, research on human responses to specific colors has been
conducted in laboratory settings, this researcher found no scientific research about
whether or not a specific color can effect a patient's recovery process. A natural
research setting, within the interior of a hospital unit, provides a unique challenge to learn
about the relationship between people and the physical environment. It is believed that
color will express the way we feel by either raising or lowering our spirits (Ladd-
Franklin, 1973). Based on the beliefs of color researchers, this study tested whether or
not color had a positive impact recovery and that orange, considered a universal healer,
had a greater impact than green or purple.
This research aims to provide the interior design profession as well as the medical
profession with a source of knowledge that will provide evidence about the physical
environment's impact on patient well-being. It is hoped that this study will demonstrate
that a designer's personal preference for a particular color should have little to do with
the selection of colors in hospitals. Instead, colors should be chosen based upon their
ability to aid in the patients' recovery process.
Environmental factors have a tremendous impact on the behaviors that occur within
particular building settings. Beginning in the 1960's, designers began to believe that, "If
a man can manipulate his surroundings to improve his physical well-being, they
reasoned, he can manipulate it to foster desired behavior and to eliminate negative
responses" (Chaney, 1973:61). This concept plays a large role in the design of hospital
facilities. Under normal situations, when people feel uncomfortable with their physical
environment, they can solve the problem by simply leaving or adapting the environment
(Malkin, 1992). Unfortunately, this is not the case in healthcare facilities. Patients are
held captive in their environments and have no control over leaving or changing the
environment, and this condition places an incredible responsibility on designers (Malkin,
Designers face a great challenge in designing a positive hospital interior
environment. Patients enter a hospital setting already suffering from some ailment;
therefore, it is extremely important that the design positively impacts the patients'
psychological states, contributes to their recovery, or at least does not exacerbate their
illness (Chaney, 1973). Roslyn Lindheim, a critic of the modern hospital facility says
The adjectives used to describe hospitals include dehumanizing, depersonalizing,
neutering, frightening, uncaring. I have neither heard anyone describe a hospital as
beautiful, peaceful, healing, warm, joyous ...indeed a look at the modern hospital
speaks not of human healing but of our technological progress, not of caring but of
an increase in the G.N.P. (Gross National Product), not of generating health but of
saving jobs and institutions. Despite this, the belief in hospitals is strong today.
Modem hospitals face a great challenge to not only care for the ill, but also to run a
successful business. By caring for patients, in a timely manner, hospitals are able to be
profitable, efficient, and to improve the care of patients (UCLA, 1987). Today's patients
are consumers. If the hospital does not create a welcoming, healing environment, the
patients will go elsewhere. The Vidar Klinik is a hospital that was created with healing
in mind (Moore, 2000). Wall colors were chosen in this hospital based upon Austrian
theoretician, Rudolf Steiner's philosophies about the healing powers of color (Moore,
2000). The patient rooms were painted pink or blue. Pink is believed to be healthful for
the spirit and blue is believed to relieve migraines (Moore, 2000). The majority of the
patients in this hospital are cancer sufferers or are patients being treated for depression
(Moore, 2000). With this in mind, patients in the Vidar Klinik are placed in rooms with
particular wall colors depending on their illness. There have been no studies completed
to determine the effectiveness of this strategy.
Many designers remain skeptical about the effects of human responses to
environmental factors and continue to select colors based on their own personal
preferences, despite many researchers' attempts to document the effects of color on
human behavior and physiological systems of the body within a laboratory setting.
However, if one sees the hospital from a quadriplegic's point of view, then the effects of
the environmental factors can be fully appreciated. A quadriplegic's view is limited to
that in a fixed, horizontal position in bed day in and out. Therefore, his or her behavioral,
physical, and psycho-emotional repertoire of coping mechanisms is much more
restrictive than that of an average, healthy individual (Verderber, 1983). With this
example, it is easy to comprehend how the natural light entering the room, the color of
the walls, the art that hangs on the walls, and anything else that is within immediate view
of the patient can effect not only a quadriplegic patient but others as well.
In 1997, The Center for Health Design compiled a list of environmental design
features that were considered important to creating higher quality interiors in healthcare
environments. This list of possible research areas included texture or finish of walls and
furnishings, noise, windows, and color of walls and furnishings (Rubin et al., 1998).
These researchers conducted an extensive review of the existing published articles that
explored how particular environmental factors effected patients. They found no scientific
published articles that addressed the issue of color (Rubin et al., 1998). The
physiological effect of visible color in a natural setting has not been documented by
medical science (Birren, 1961), despite many widely held beliefs and declarations about
the impact of color on people.
Although the literature review for this work did not reveal any research on how
color effects a patient's recovery in a hospital setting, there are two significant studies
that suggest that environmental factors can effect a patient's recovery in healthcare
facility design. Verderber (1983) and Ulrich (1984) both conducted research on the
effects of a window on a hospital patient's well-being. Verderber (1983) found that a
patient's proximity to a window and the view context out the window had an effect on the
patient's well-being. Ulrich's (1984) study showed that the patient's recovery was
effected by whether he or she had a view of a natural scene or a view of a brick wall.
These two studies are related to the current research on wall color in a patient's room
because they show that patients' well-being and recovery can be effected by
Currently, there are no substantive guidelines for the selection of color in
healthcare facilities (Malkin, 1992). In fact, Faber Birren believes that, "the medical
profession has always been wary of any claims for color theory chiefly because all color
experience is highly personal and difficult to test and verify" (Pierman, 1976:5). This
study will test the impact of wall color at the foot of a patient's bed on recovery in order
to provide the interior design profession with a source of knowledge that may help
professionals design the most beneficial healthcare facilities for patients.
The basic assumptions made in relation to this study were the following:
1. The participants of the study are suffering from a cardiovascular illness and
therefore are temporarily residing in the cardiac care unit of a hospital.
2. Being cardiovascular patients, it is assumed that the typical stay in the hospital will
be between three and four days.
3. Orange, green, purple, and beige painted walls at the foot of a patient's bed are
assumed to cause differences in the anxiety levels, lengths of stay, and pain
medication requests of the participants.
4. A hospital situation with cardiovascular patients can be used to determine the
degree of differences in their anxiety levels, lengths of stay, and pain medication
requests as influenced by the wall color at the foot of their bed.
5. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory can be used to measure the participants' levels of
6. The participants' medical records can be used to determine the lengths of stay and
the pain medication requests.
Hypotheses of the Study
Three hypotheses are defined for this study.
1. There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and anxiety levels in a hospital setting.
2. There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and recovery time in a hospital setting.
3. There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and the amount of pain medication requested in a hospital setting.
Investigating the psychological attributes of color can further the understanding of
its effect on patient well-being. Research has shown that environmental factors have an
effect on patient well-being, but evidence on how patients are effected by wall color in
their hospital room is lacking. Chapter 2 investigates some ancient beliefs about color,
gives a brief definition of color, and explores studies on human responses to color. The
chapter also describes how heart disease is effected by environmental factors and how
color therapy is believed to work. Chapter 3 explains the methods used to conduct this
research on how color effects a patient's recovery, and chapters four and five report the
findings of this research and the researcher's conclusions about this study.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
It is believed that color can effect human emotions and can induce physiological
responses. Kenneth Edwards (1979) has shown that if people are effected by color in
their normal lives, then they are even more susceptible to the effects of color on their
behavior when they are not feeling their best. Thus, an appropriate color scheme may aid
in a patient's recovery (Carpman, 1993). The following review of literature attempts to
explain the relationship between color and psychological well-being.
"Color is that part of perception that is carried to us from our surroundings by
differences in the wavelengths of light, is perceived by the eye, and is interpreted by the
brain" (Nassau, 1997:3). The human eye does not have the capacity to see color. Light
reflects off surfaces and triggers an electrochemical response in the eye, which translates
into color within the brain (Miller, 1997). Different colored surfaces are distinguished by
a different pattern of nerve signals that are generated by color receptors found within the
retina of the eye (Verity, 1980). There are two types of receptors found within the retina,
called rods and cones. The cones are the ones responsible for the perception of color
(Verity, 1980). Cones can detect visible wavelengths between 400 (violet) to 700 (red)
nanometers (Miller, 1997).
Color can be measured with spectrophotometers and radiometric colorimeters.
Spectrophotometers measure the reflection characteristics of an object in wavelengths
(Nassau, 1997). Spectrophotometers illuminate the object with polychromatic light,
which contains all the wavelengths in the visible spectrum, and analyzes the light
reflected off the surface of the object (Nassau, 1997). Radiometric colorimeters detect
color in a similar way as spectrophotometers do, with the exception that they can only
measure self-luminous objects, such as lamps, displays, and computer screens (Nassau,
Paints are comprised of pigments, which are chemical components that selectively
reflect colored light to the observer (Verity, 1980). The primary pigment colors are
magenta, cyan, and yellow, which can be mixed together to produce innumerable colors
(Verity, 1980). Pigments absorb wavelengths, transmit wavelengths, and bend light in
different directions (Nassau, 1997). The pigment is a finely ground organic or inorganic
material that is combined with a liquid vehicle before it can be applied to a surface in a
paint form (Verity, 1980). Organic materials are derived from vegetable or animal
sources, native earths, and calcium natural earths (Verity, 1980). Today, inorganic, or
synthetic pigments are more often used than organic materials (Verity, 1980).
In order to perceive color fully, hue, saturation, and brightness need to be
described. Hue describes the actual color (Nassau, 2001). The hues that the human eye
sees are determined by reflected wavelengths (Miller, 1997). Saturation describes how
pure the color is, or how much white is mixed in (Nassau, 2001). A high-saturation hue
is bright and vivid (Miller, 1997). Brightness describes how much light a surface
receives. Brightness differentiates objects from their backgrounds and provides shade
and shadow (Miller, 1997).
Historical Overview of Beliefs About the Healing Power of Color
"Color is an ubiquitous, primary, and nonverbal aspect of human environments,
and investigating its psychological significance furthers the understanding of human
behavior on the most basic level" (Ireland et al. 1992:1). Throughout history, color has
been assumed to have an effect on health. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians all
used forms of color and light therapies in healing (Demarco and Clarke, 2001). The
Persians are believed to have practiced a form of color therapy based on the emanations
of light (Birren, 1961). Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher around 500 BC, is believed to
have used music, poetry, and color to cure disease (Birren, 1961). Celsus, who practiced
medicine at the beginning of the Christian era, prescribed medicine with color in mind.
He once wrote, "there is one plaster almost of a red color, which seems to bring wounds
very rapidly to cicatrize" (Birren, 1961:21). The early beliefs behind the healing power
of color were fairly simple. "Colors were associated with disease because disease
produced color" (Birren, 1961:35). The Egyptians were the first civilization to research
color healing. They created "color halls" within their great temples, such as Karnack and
Thebes, in which they explored the impact of color on an individual's ability to heal
With the advancement of modern medicine, the interest in the healing power of
color was left to the artists and poets. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a
famous German poet, who developed his own theory on color, which explained,
Experience teaches us that the individual colours induce particular moods. In order
to experience fully these important individual effects the eye should be entirely
surrounded by one colour; we should be in a room of one colour, or look through a
coloured glass. We are then identified with the colour; it induces both eye and
mind in unison with it. (Boos-Hamburger, 1963:5)
Goethe had very particular beliefs as to what emotions particular colors would induce.
He believed that orange gave people a warm feeling that is reminiscent of the setting of
the sun (Boss-Hamburger, 1963). Goethe believed that green was very satisfying to the
eye. "If both mother colours (yellow and blue) are absolutely balanced in the mixture so
that neither is more noticeable than the other, the eye and the mind rest on the mixture as
though on something simple. Therefore, a green wallpaper is so often chosen for a room
which is in constant use" (Boss-Hamburger, 1963:7). Further, Goethe believed that a
very pale form of purple has a certain amount of life in it, but no joyousness (Boss-
Through the efforts of S. Pancoast in 1877, color therapy was reunited with
medicine. He wrote, "to accelerate the Nervous System, in all cases of relaxation, the red
ray must be used, and to relax the Nervous System, in all cases of excessively accelerated
tension, the blue ray must be used" (Birren, 1961:53). Around this same time, Edwin D.
Babbitt began to wonder how to incorporate color therapy with modem medicine. He
Substances combine in a harmonizing union with those substances whose colors
form a chemical affinity with their own and thus keep up that law of equilibrium
which is the safety of all things. This law having been so abundantly explained, it
is obvious beyond guesswork, that if the red arterial blood vessel should become
overactive and inflammatory, blue light or some other blue substance must be the
balancing and harmonizing principle. While again if the yellow and to some extent
the red and orange principle nerves should become unduly excited, the violet and
also the blue and indigo would be the soothing principles to have applied. This
applies to the nerves of the cranium, stomach, bowels, and kidneys, as well as
elsewhere, in which the heating and expansive action of these thermal principles
may beget the condition of delirium, emesis, diarrhea, diuresis, etc., that can be
assuaged only by the cooling and contracting influence of substances possessing
the electrical colors. Can this law, which thus stands out clearly and simply like a
mathematical demonstration be shown to have a basis in actual practice harmony
with the experiences of the medical world for ages back? (Birren, 1961:57-8).
Although there is no scientific backing to the historical beliefs about the association
between color and health, the historical beliefs found show the long standing fascination
with the association. This association can be dated back to 500 BC, and yet there is still a
lack of scientific evidence to prove the effects color has on health.
Intuition, Beliefs, and Research-Based Evidence About the Effects of Color
Today there are numerous widely held beliefs about the effects of color on humans,
but very few theories that have a scientific backing. Two University of Washington
researchers, B.K. Wise and J.A. Wise, reviewed previous research, and came up with a
summary of what is empirically known about responses to color (Carpman, 1993). They
also looked at the perception of a setting on one's behavior in that setting. After
reviewing over 200 laboratory studies they found that, "A positive reaction to color is a
mixture of social and emotional context and general fashion, as well as a specific
response to the interaction among light source, background color, and object order."
They also found that, "Perceived appropriateness of colors varies with the function and
style of an interior; including its decoration and with education and sociocultural norms
(taste). Characteristic appearance preferences for each style are unique to that style"
(Carpman, 1993:174). When classic color preference studies were examined (Park and
Guerin, 2002), it was found that various colors have different meanings to different
cultures. These differences effect their preferences for certain colors that can ultimately
effect their cognitive and motor abilities. Further, Park and Guerin (2002) discovered
that there is a relationship between color and meaning, and that the most preferred hue
temperature, value level, chroma level, and contrast level depends on the culture.
Certain colors tend to stimulate the body's functions in different ways. Marberry
(1995) believes that the immune system detects elements of the environment, such as
color, that elude other senses. Dr. Deepak Chopra believes that, "our immune cells are
constantly eavesdropping on our internal conversations. Immune cells are thinking cells,
'conscience little beings' like brain cells, equivalent to a circulating nervous system"
(Marberry and Zagon, 1995:86). This idea may contribute to the causation of illness.
According to Carol Vernolia (1988:63), "Red stimulates and invigorates the physical
body. It increases circulation, muscular activity, blood pressure, respiration, nervous
tension, heart rate, and hormonal and sexual activity. It stimulates the nervous system,
liver, adrenals, and senses in general." Yellow raises blood pressure, pulse and
respiration. It can relieve depression, tension, and fear, and soothe mental and nervous
exhaustion (Vernolia, 1988). Orange is an appetite stimulate, and is seen as a universal
healer that can counteract depression and humorlessness (Vernolia, 1988). Green effects
the whole nervous system and is especially beneficial to the central nervous system. It
has a sedative effect, relieving irritation and exhaustion. It soothes emotional disorders
and nervous headaches (Vernolia, 1988). "Green harmonizes us. If we wish to refresh
ourselves we go to the countryside, where the green of nature restores us after the city has
taken its toll of our nerves" (Anderson, 1975:8). Purple induces relaxation and sleep,
lowers body temperature, and decreases sensitivity to pain. It also increases the activity
of the veins (Vernolia, 1988).
Laboratory Studies on Human Responses to Color
Laboratory research studies have shown that color can have a direct effect on a
person physically, as well as, mentally. Kurt Goldstein is a recognized authority on
psycho neurology. He wrote, "It is probably not a false statement if we say that a specific
color stimulation is accompanied by a specific response pattern in the entire organism"
(Birren, 1961:144). His studies have documented the effects of specific colors on
individuals having certain diseases. In one such case, a woman with a cerebellar disease
had a tendency to fall unexpectedly and to walk with an unsteady gait. When she wore a
red dress, her symptoms were more pronounced. Green and blue clothing restored her
equilibrium to almost normal (Birren, 1961). Another study showed that when patients
suffering from tremors and twitching wore green glasses, their symptoms were relieved
The Environmental Docility Hypothesis, developed by M. Powell Lawton, states
that, "the less competent the individual, the greater the impact of environmental factors
on the individual" (Malkin, 1992:47). A patient's emotions can be related to their
environment, which can effect wellness. Cohen (1986) found that environmental stress,
or a situation in which the demands on an individual tax or exceed his adaptive
capabilities, could effect a person's physiological and psychological well-being.
Research on the psychological effects of color has been difficult because human emotions
are not stable and an individual's psychic make-up varies from person to person (Birren,
In 1976, a special workshop, "Color in the Health Care Environment," was held at
the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This workshop brought
together the architects, engineers, financial institutions, builders and users of the
healthcare facilities. Marcella Graham (Pierman, 1976), an environmental design
consultant, was a speaker at the workshop. Graham believes that the human response to
color falls within six categories, which are shown in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1. Human Responses to Color (Pierman, 1976).
Physiological: Changes in blood pressure, pulse rate, automatic nervous system,
hormonal activity, rate of tissue oxidation and growth.
Within the eye: Change in size of pupil, shape of lens, position of eyeball,
chemical response of retinal nerve endings.
Cognitive: Memory and recall illusion and perceptive confusion, values
judgment, associative response
Mood: Stimulating, irritating, cheerful, relaxing, boring, exciting,
Impressionistic: Space seems larger, smaller, warmer, cooler, clean or dirty,
bright or drab; people appear healthy or unhealthy, food is
appetizing or not, older, younger, old, new
Associative: With nature, with technology, religious and cultural traditions,
with art and science, typical or atypical
Some of the responses that Graham predicts color can produce may be detrimental
to a patient's recovery within the hospital setting. Alterations in blood pressure due to an
organismic or physiological response or changes in mood can lead to patient stress.
Graham did not specify whether she believes that particular colors promote these specific
responses, or if color in general promotes these responses. The Physiological Model of
Stress states that the sympathetic-adrenal medullar system reacts to various emergency
situations with increased adrenalin. The increased adrenalin, repeated over time, can
result in a sequence of responses that can ultimately accumulate in illness, which might
include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased cardiac demand for
oxygen, and provocation of ventricular arrhythmias (Cohen et al. 1986).
During the past 30 years, no studies have been focused on how color effects
patients in a hospital setting. However, 84 studies have examined how other
environmental factors have been shown to impact well-being (Rubin, 1998). The Center
for Health Care Design stated that color is an important environmental feature in the
design of hospitals that needs to be further explored. Although the human response to the
application of color on walls within the interior hospital environment has not been
thoroughly explored, the application of colored lights has been explored. Studies have
been able to show that colored lights can have impacts on concentration, alertness,
aggression, stress, and even dyslexia (Demarco and Clarke, 2001). The use of applying
colored lights to relieve illness in known as chromotherapy.
Chromotherapy, or color healing, is the application of beams of colored light to the
body to restore imbalance (Anderson, 1975). Color light rays activate the nerves, glands,
and blood (Stevens, 1938). This healing technique examines the electro-magnetic field,
which surrounds every human body. It is believed that the aura around the effected
human body part will appear discolored, which tells the color healer where the chemical
imbalance, which produces illness, is located (Anderson, 1975). Today, a process called
Kirlian photography is able to photograph the subject and show the emanations of energy,
or aura. A color health practitioner interprets the photograph to reveal the individual's
physical, emotional, and psychological characteristics (Demarco and Clarke, 2001).
Color raying energy reaches both the mental and physical conditions, where most
diseases originate, which then directly treats the cause and not just the symptoms
(Stevens, 1938). Proponents of chromotherapy believe that it is much safer than drugs
because it leaves no harmful residuals that the body has to overwork to eliminate. Drugs
can also be unreliable because people react differently to each drug (Anderson, 1975).
It is believed that chromotherapy was utilized as early as 1876, when Augustus
Pleasanton used blue light to treat a variety of diseases that were associated with pain
(Demarco and Clarke, 2001). During the 1920's, Dinshah Ghadiali, a Hindu scientist
developed the Spectro-Chrome system of healing (Demarco and Clarke, 2001). This
system explains how and why the different colored rays have various therapeutic effects
on organisms. Ghadiali believed that each organism and system of the body has a color
that can stimulate it, and another color that inhibits it (Anderson, 1975). He said that the
Spectro-Chrome system could be implemented by applying the correct color that will
balance the action of the abnormally functioning organ or system (Anderson, 1975). It is
believed that palpitation, or abnormal beating or throbbing of the heart, can be treated
with projected blue light (Stevens, 1938).
Through this system of treatment the normalizing color ray should be projected on
the nude body, or the part of the body with the ailment in twenty-minute intervals
(Stevens, 1938). The normalizing color ray varies depending on the part of the body that
is out of balance and thus creating illness. Also, different color rays are believed to
promote different functions in the body. It is believed that the violet ray causes bone
growth, the green ray increases vitality and energy, and the orange ray acts as a
nourishing tonic (Stevens, 1938).
Cardiac Illness and Patient Responses to Environmental Factors
It is estimated that 5 percent of all hospital admissions can be attributed to heart
failure (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). The National Center for Health Care Statistics
reported that in 2000 heart disease was the number two leading cause of death for people
between the ages of 45 and 64, which total 100,124 deaths in the United States. For the
population over 65 years of age, heart disease was the leading cause of death with
This current study was conducted using the cardiac care unit of a hospital because
there is clear evidence of cardiac illnesses being effected by environmental factors.
Sirois and Burg (2003) believe that specific negative emotional states, namely
depression, anger, and anxiety, can have a negative influence on medical variables and
quality of life for patients with coronary heart disease. The effect that negative emotional
state can have on patients with coronary heart disease needs to be examined. Evidence
shows that the physical environment can effect emotional states. Introducing the colors
of red and blue to an environment has been attributed to feelings of anxiousness or
depression (Birren, 1961).
The impact that psychological factors can have on cardiac functioning has been
extensively tested (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). When a patient begins to feel anxious
their body is in a state of stress, which can negatively effect the cardiac output of a
patient with cardiac heart failure (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). Psychological stress can
cause a patient's heart rate to increase, which places an even greater physical stress on the
body (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). A study conducted by Frasure-Smith in 1995 found
that patients with higher anxiety levels were 4.9 times more likely to suffer from in-
hospital cardiac complications or death after a myocardial infraction than those with
normal stress levels (Sirois and Burg, 2003).
Depression can have an equally devastating effect on patients with coronary heart
disease. Major depression is found in 16 percent to 23 percent of all coronary heart
disease patients (Sirois and Burg, 2003). The general population has a depression rate of
5 percent (Sirois and Burg, 2003). Major depression can be attributed to patients not
complying with their medical treatment after coronary heart failure (MacMahon and Lip,
2002). Noncompliance is believed to contribute to a high rate of readmission rates for
these patients (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). Patients with depression who suffer from a
myocardial infraction are found to have a 40 percent mortality rate within 12 months
(Sirois and Burg, 2003). Based on these studies, it is extremely important to
acknowledge the effects that anxiety and depression can have on a patient with coronary
heart disease. By addressing hospital environmental factors that may contribute to a
coronary heart disease patient's anxiety and depression, we can aim to decrease the
likelihood of mortality due to heart failure while recovering in the hospital setting.
As this review of literature shows, there are many widely held beliefs about the
effect of color on the recovery process. The beliefs date back prior to the Christian era,
and yet today there still are many people who remain skeptical about the healing effects
of color. Color can be implemented into the healing process in various forms, including
chromotherapy and applying it to the physical environment. The important concept to
understand is the effect that color can have on a patient's psychological state while in a
hospital environment. It has been shown that, a patient's psychological state plays a large
role in the recovery process, particularly with coronary heart patients. By examining the
impact of color in relation to recovery, researchers can provide evidence to support
designers as they strive to create healing environments, which foster the recovery
Using an experimental research design within the natural setting of a hospital, this
study explored the impact of wall color at the foot of the hospital bed on patient recovery
in the cardiac care unit of a hospital. Data was collected from multiple sources to
examine the effect of wall color on a patient's anxiety level, amount of pain medication
requests, and length of stay. Anxiety level was used to measure a patient's recovery in
this study because research shows that anxiety can have a negative influence on a
patient's recovery (MacMahon and Lip, 2002). A pre-interview process with several
doctors, who were currently practicing in the hospital, suggested that there is a belief
among physicians that anxiety can effect a patient's recovery.
Amount of pain medication and length of stay were also used to measure a patient's
recovery based on work by Verderber (1983) and Ulrich (1984). Verderber's (1983)
study was a good base for the current research study because an environmental factor
within a hospital setting was linked with patient recovery. Verderber's study used patient
and staff interviews to determine the effect that a window can have on a patient. His
findings suggested that the interview process was a good beginning for a study involving
a hospital setting. Ulrich's (1984) study built upon Verderber's findings. His study
examined patients' records looking for pain medication requests and lengths of stay and
compared patients with a view of a brick wall with those with a natural scene. He found
that the frequency of pain medication requests and lengths of stay were accurate
measures in determining patient recovery. Verderber's (1983) and Ulrich's (1984)
studies helped this researcher identify measures to use for testing patients' recovery rates
in a hospital setting. Pain medication requests and length of stay were the same measures
used in Ulrich's (1984) study. Ulrich (1984) was able to show that when a patient had a
view from a window there were fewer pain medication requests and the length of stay
was shorter than when the patient had a view of a brick wall. The following is a
definition of the hypotheses and a description of the study participants, the setting, and
the tools used to collect the data.
Based on previous research on physical environmental variables and beliefs about
color, it is believed that a patient's recovery will be positively effected by the wall color
within their particular hospital room. It is anticipated that this study will determine
generally, whether wall color impacts recovery and specifically, which colors have the
greatest impact on recovery. It is expected that the results will show that orange will
have the most positive effect on the patient. Previous research suggests that orange is
considered the universal healer and is often used in the hospital environment (Venolia,
Three hypotheses are defined for this study. They are:
* There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and the patient's recovery time in a hospital setting.
* There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and the amount of pain medication requested by the patient in a
* There is a relationship between the color on the wall at the foot of the patient's
hospital bed and the patient's anxiety level in a hospital setting.
The hospital selected for this research was Shands at the University of Florida.
Shands Health Care began in 1958 as the University of Florida Teaching Hospital. In
1979, Shands Teaching Hospital changed from a state institution to a private, not-for-
profit corporation and was renamed Shands Hospital. Through the years, Shands has
added a network of facilities. Shands Health Care now includes eight hospitals. Shands
Hospital, located on the University of Florida campus, specializes in tertiary care for
critically ill patients. Shands is also the primary teaching hospital for the University of
Florida College of Medicine. In 2001, Shands treated 46,653 patients throughout their
network of facilities. The facility at the University of Florida contains 576 patient beds
and has over 500 physicians who represent 110 different specialities.
Figure 3.1. Layout of the fifth floor cardiac care unit at Shands Hospital.
The area of the hospital used for this study was the cardiac care unit located on the
fifth floor of the hospital. This unit was chosen based upon the opinions of the Shands
Hospital administration. The administration determined that the cardiac care unit was the
only area of the hospital where there were ten rooms located in close proximity to each
other that were used for patients with similar illnesses. It was also determined that the
patients would have similar lengths of stay and medication requests in this unit. The unit
consists of a total of twenty-two rooms. The eleven rooms located on the west side of the
unit are double occupancy rooms that are used for patients recovering from surgery and
patients that are under cardiac observations. The eleven rooms located on the east side of
the unit are single occupancy rooms that are used for patients waiting for heart transplants
and patients recovery from transplant surgery. Staff and service rooms occupied the core
of the unit. Figure 3.1 shows the arrangement of the rooms.
The rooms numbered 5438, 5440, 5442, 5444, 5446, 5448, 5450, 5452, 5454, and
5456 were used in this study. Shands donated ten rooms for the use of this study and so
the first ten rooms in the hall were selected for use. They were all double occupancy
rooms with an area of 244 square feet. They all contain the same size window that looks
out over the west side of the building. The artwork on the walls that were painted for the
study was removed from each room so that as many of the environmental factors that
could influence the patient were eliminated. The walls that weren't painted were left in
their current beige color. The curtains separating the two patients were a combination of
orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The laminate countertops were green and the
floors were orange and green. All the furniture in the rooms was neutral shades of white,
gray, or beech wood. Figure 3.2 shows an enlarged version of the layout and dimensions
of the typical room used for this study.
ill" -- -in ':--7j A
Figure 3.2. Enlarged layout of a typical room in the cardiac care unit at Shands Hospital.
Prior to the start of the study, the wall at the foot of the patients' beds were painted
in rooms 5438, 5440, 5442, 5444, 5446, and 5448. The paint colors were chosen to
coordinate with the colors already found within the room so that the patients would not
suspect anything about being involved in a study. An attempt was also made to choose
colors that were perceived to not be harmful, in any way, to the patients. The walls at the
foot of the patients' beds were painted purple; Sherwin Williams color SW6556 (Figure
3.3), in rooms numbered 5438 and 5444. Purple was chosen for use in this study because
it is believed to induce relaxation and sleep, lower body temperature, and decrease
sensitivity to pain. The walls at the foot of the patients' beds were painted green;
Sherwin Williams color SW6451 (Figure 3.4), in rooms 5440 and 5446. Green was
chosen because it is perceived to have a sedative effect and relieve irritation and
exhaustion. Orange, Sherwin Williams color SW6346 (Figure 3.5), was painted on the
walls in rooms 5442 and 5448. Orange is believed to be a universal healer that can be
used to counteract depression and humorlessness. The rooms numbered 5450, 5452,
5454, and 5456 were left unpainted in their natural beige color, similar to Sherwin
Williams color SW6658 (Figure 3.6). There was an attempt made to have one room of
each color located close to the nurses' station and it just worked out that all the beige
rooms were located next to each other.
Figure 3.3. Purple paint color.
Figure 3.4. Green paint color.
Figure 3.5. Orange paint color.
Figure 3.6. Beige paint color.
The participants were thirty-nine patients who occupied a bed in the cardiac care
unit on the fifth floor of Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida between February 3,
2003 and March 2, 2003. Ten of the participants were recovering from cardiac surgery,
while twenty-nine patients were undergoing cardiac observations. The patients ranged in
age from 26 to 89. There were a fairly equal number of male and female participants
with 19 females and 20 males (Table 3.1). Although there was no specific demographic
information collected, except for age and gender, it was the researcher's perception that
the patients were from various religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The
patients were randomly placed in the hospital rooms by the hospital administration upon
their admission to the hospital.
Table 3.1. Number of male and female patients who occupied each colored room.
Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Female 7 3 3 6 19
(17.9%) (7.7%) (7.7%) (15.4%)
Male 6 7 6 1 20
(15.4%) (17.9%) (15.4%) (2.6%)
Total 13 10 9 7 39
A quantitative approach, consisting of three parts was used for this study. The
three parts included administering an anxiety test, documenting the length of stay and
medication requests, and informally interviewing patients and staff. This researcher
determined that a sample size of 100 participants would likely provide enough
information to determine if the patients' recovery process was being effected by the color
painted on the wall at the foot of the bed. There was no research found to help determine
the required sample size. The hospital administration estimated that conducting the study
for four weeks would provide the appropriate sample size. Due to variables out of the
researcher's control, the four-week study only produced 39 participants. During the
length of the study there was an unusually low number of admissions. Also, eleven
patients had to be eliminated from the study for various reasons.
All three instruments were conducted on the day that the patient was being released
from the hospital. The final day of the patient's stay in the hospital was chosen for
multiple reasons. First, the researcher wanted to be sure that each patient had spent
enough time in the room to have an opportunity to be effected by the color. Second, the
nursing staff determined that the doctors notified the nurses of who was to be released at
a certain time everyday. It then took the nurses time to prepare the patients to be
released. This was suggested to be the best time to conduct the research because all the
patients were awake, preparing to go home, and all the medical information was available
to the researcher. Lastly, conducting research on the final day proved to be of the least
inconvenience to the nursing staff. The researcher was able to check the notes board to
determine who was being sent home, and therefore who should be interviewed, without
bothering any of the hospital staff.
The Medical Internal Review Board determined that the researcher could not be the
first person to approach the patient to participate in the study. Therefore, the patients
were first approached by the nurse manager for the unit and asked to participate in this
study. If they agreed to participate the principal investigator then approached them to
explain the study and obtain a signed informed consent form. Eleven patients who were
approached could not be used in the study. Three patients explained that they would just
prefer not to participate. Two of the patients were considered legally colorblind. It was
the researcher's opinion that they would not be effected by the color on the walls and
therefore should not be used in the study. One patient was extremely confused and could
not understand the information being explained to him. He was eliminated from
participating in the study. One patient felt uncomfortable with having the principal
investigator examine his medical records and was therefore eliminated. One patient was
considered extremely depressed by the nurse manager and was not approached to
participate in the study and two patients could not speak English and were therefore left
out of the study. Lastly, one patient was extremely nervous and worried that the anxiety
test would reveal that she should have to stay in the hospital for an extended amount of
time. It was the researcher's opinion that she altered her answers on the test to make it
appear as though she had no anxiety in her life. This left thirty-nine patients who could
participate in the study.
Once each patient signed the informed consent form, the researcher explained the
anxiety test and how it was going to be used. The patient was told that the test would
take approximately ten to fifteen minutes and that it would entail answering forty
multiple-choice questions about how they feel at the moment and about how they
"generally" feel. Once the researcher felt the patient understood what was being asked of
them, the patient was told that they would be left alone to take the test while the
researcher examined their medical records to document the length of stay in that
particular room and the pain medication they had requested.
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
The anxiety test used in this study was the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
(Appendix), which was developed by Charles D. Spielberger. The test consists of two
separate 20-item self-report scales, which were self-administered to measure state anxiety
and trait anxiety. State anxiety consists of subjective feelings of tension, apprehension,
worry, and activation of the autonomic nervous system (Speilberger et al. 1999). Trait
anxiety is the differences in proneness to anxiety (Speilberger et al. 1999). The State-
Trait Anxiety Inventory was chosen as the tool to measure anxiety because of its ability
to access both state and trait anxiety with reliable, relatively brief, self-report scales
Today, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory has become widely used in many
different disciplines including: counseling and guidance, criminal justice, education,
nursing, speech and hearing, sports psychology, sociology and anthropology, fine arts,
political science and government, and teacher education (Speilberger, 1985). The
particular area of interest for this study is its use in assessing whether color produces or
alleviates anxiety, which can impact recovery (Speilberger, 1985).
During the study, the participants were generally left to complete the anxiety test
on their own. The researcher administered the test orally to four of the participants. One
patient could not read. The three other patients had left their reading glasses at home and
therefore could not see the test.
Documenting Length of Stay and Medication Requests
While the patient was taking the anxiety test, with the nurses' permission, the
researcher examined the daily nurses' notes to determine medication requests and length
of stay. Located in the hallway outside the patients' rooms were carts that held a
notebook, which contained the daily nurses' notes for each patient. The notebooks were
divided according to the bed number. To find the length of stay that each patient was in
the particular room of interest, the researcher looked at the first page of nurses' notes
where the patient's name and the date they were admitted could be located. The
researcher noted the date the patient was admitted and the date that they were being
released to conclude how many days the patient had spent in that room.
To document the pain medication requested by the patient, the researcher turned to
the section in the nurses' notes that listed pain medication administered by date and time.
The researcher noted how many dosages were administered to the patient each day that
they were in the particular hospital room of interest. The lengths of stay and medication
requests were then recorded on the researcher's data chart and the researcher returned to
the patient's room to pick-up the anxiety test and to thank the patient for participating.
Discussions with Staff and Patients
Throughout the four-week study the patients and staff were very willing to offer
their opinions and beliefs about the colors located in the rooms. The researcher
documented the informal staff and patient conversations at the end of each day. These
notes were then compiled at the end of the study to compare the findings in the study
with the patients and staff s preferences for particular colors.
The purpose of this study was to explore the effect that wall color has on a patient's
recovery while occupying a hospital room. A review of literature showed that there are
many widely held beliefs about how color effects healing, but there are no scientific
studies that have been conducted in a hospital setting. In an attempt to test some of the
suppositions about color, the study hypothesized that wall color at the foot of the
patient's bed can effect a patient's anxiety level, length of stay in the hospital, and the
amount of medication requested by the patient while in the hospital. All data was
collected by using the nurses' notes, regarding pain medication requests and lengths of
stay, and administering an anxiety test on the last day of the patients' stay in one of the
hospital rooms used for this study.
Anxiety levels were recorded using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory developed by
Charles D. Speilberger. There are two parts to this anxiety test. The first part analyzes a
person's anxiety levels based on his or her feelings of tension, apprehension,
nervousness, and worry (Speilberger, 1983). The second part of the anxiety test
examines clinical anxiety and is largely used for screening for anxiety problems and
evaluating the immediate and long-term outcome of psychotherapy, counseling, behavior
modification, and drug-treatment programs (Speilberger, 1983). It was determined that
the first part of the test, the State Anxiety Level, would be more beneficial in determining
the effects of wall color on patient anxiety because it examines a person's feelings at the
moment of the test. This study was interested in how the patients' anxiety levels were
effected while in the hospital, which was a relatively short amount of time. The second
part of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory examined long-term anxiety, which would not
have been beneficial in understanding how the colors effected the patients.
The state anxiety was scored based on twenty questions. Each question was given
a score of 1 to 4, with 4 indicating the highest level of anxiety. The scores for each of the
twenty questions were then added together to give each participant an anxiety score
between 20 and 80. The publisher of the test provided normative data about the state
scores for general medicine and surgery patients. The data provided was collected in six
veterans hospitals throughout the southeastern United States. The mean state anxiety
score for the 161 patients tested was 42.4. The normative data provided suggested that
there was no significant difference in anxiety scores based upon age. Within this current
study, the mean anxiety scores were much lower. The average anxiety level for all
participants of this study was 32.5. When the patients were separated based upon the
color of the wall at the foot of their bed, the average anxiety level of the patients with a
beige wall at the foot of their bed was 29.7. The patients with a purple wall at the foot of
their bed had an average anxiety level of 33.2, the patients with a green wall had an
average anxiety level of 35.3, and the average anxiety level of a patient occupying a room
with an orange wall was 33.0 (Table 4.1).
Table 4.1. Average anxiety levels of patients occupying rooms of each color.
Mean N Std Deviation
Beige 29.69 13 10.363
Purple 33.20 10 10.717
Green 35.33 9 10.173
Orange 33.00 7 5.066
Total 32.49 39 9.578
A chi-squared test was used to test the independence of color and anxiety levels.
To perform this test, anxiety scores were placed into two categories, low anxiety and high
anxiety. No information was found by this researcher that indicated what a normal
anxiety range is for a population similar to the one in this study. Therefore, this
researcher created two categories, low anxiety and high anxiety, in an effort to compare
the effects of the various colors on anxiety levels. The mean anxiety level of all
participants in this study was determined to be 32.49. The low anxiety represented all the
anxiety levels that were below the average anxiety level for this study. The high anxiety
represented all the anxiety levels that were above the average anxiety level for this study.
The low anxiety was determined to be between 20 and 32 (or less than the mean anxiety
score) and the high anxiety was determined to be between 33 and 80 (or more than the
mean anxiety score). The results of the chi-squared test are reported in Table 4.2. This
test was not significant (p>.05) possibly due to the low number of cases in each cell.
Therefore, there is no evidence that the anxiety levels of the patients are dependent on the
color of the wall at the foot of the bed.
Table 4.2. Chi-squared test for color and anxiety levels.
Low Anxiety High Anxiety Total
Beige Count 10 3 13
Expected Count 7.7 5.3 13.0
% within color 76.9% 23.1% 100.0%
Adjusted Residual 1.6 -1.6
Purple Count 5 5 10
Expected Count 5.9 4.1 10.0
% within color 50.0% 50.0% 100.0%
Adjusted Residual -.7 .7
Green Count 5 4 9
Expected Count 5.3 3.7 9.0
% within color 55.6% 44.4% 100%
Adjusted Residual -.2 .2
Orange Count 3 4 7
Expected Count 4.1 2.9 7.0
% within color 42.9% 57.1% 100.0%
Adjusted Residual -1.0 1.0
Total Count 23 16 39
Expected Count 23.0 16.0 39.0
_% within color 59.0% 41.0% 100.0%
Because of the small sample size, a Fischer's exact test was run which requires a
2x2 table. The anxiety levels of the patients were explored based on color (purple, green,
and orange) and no color (beige). The average anxiety score for patients with no color on
the wall at the foot of the bed was 29.7. The average anxiety score for the patients with
color on the wall at the foot of the bed was 33.9. The results of Fischer's Exact Test,
similar to chi-squared, are reported in Table 4.3. This test used measures of low anxiety
(20 to 32) and high anxiety (33 to 80). This test was not significant (p>.05) and suggests
that anxiety levels are not dependent on the color of the wall at the foot of the bed.
Table 4.3. Fischer's Exact Test on color and anxiety levels.
Low Anxiety High Anxiety Total
No Color Count 10 3 13
Expected Count 7.7 5.3 13.0
% within color 76.9% 23.1% 100.0%
Adjusted Residual 1.6 -1.6
Color Count 13 13 26
Expected Count 15.3 10.7 26.0
% within color 50.0% 50.0% 100.0%
Adjusted Residual -1.6 1.6
Total Count 23 16 39
Expected Count 23.0 16.0 39.0
% within color 59.0% 41.0% 100.0%
Gender and Anxiety
Other factors that were believed to have a possible effect on anxiety levels were
also tested. One factor is the impact of gender on anxiety levels. Nineteen of the
participants of this study were female and twenty were male. Of the female patients,
seven occupied a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed; three occupied a room
with a purple wall; three occupied a room with a green wall; and six occupied a room
with an orange wall during their stay in the hospital (Table 4.4). Out of the twenty male
patients, six occupied a room with a beige wall at the foot of the patient's bed. Seven of
the male patients occupied a room with a purple wall; six of the patients had a room with
a green wall; and one patient occupied a room with an orange wall during their stay in the
hospital (Table 4.4).
Table 4.4. Number of male and female patients who occupied each colored room.
T Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Female 7 3 3 6 19
(17.9%) (7.7%) (7.7%) (15.4%)
Male 6 7 6 1 20
(15.4%) (17.9%) (15.4%) (2.6%)
Total 13 10 9 7 39
A t-test comparing the anxiety levels of the female and male patients showed no
significant difference (p>.05) in their anxiety scores. As seen in Table 4.5, the female
patients had a mean score of 33.0 and the male patients had a mean anxiety score of 32.0.
It is unknown why the standard deviations are high. The standard deviations were also
found to be high in similar studies conducted on general medicine and surgery patients
(Speilberger, 1983). These scores indicate that there is little difference between the
anxiety scores of the female and male patients. Thus, gender cannot be credited with
effecting the patients' anxiety levels.
Table 4.5. Anxiety scores of the female and male patients.
Mean N Std. Deviation
Female 33.00 19 10.661
Male 32.00 20 8.675
Total 32.49 39 9.578
Female patients. A t-test run on the female participants in this study showed no
significant difference (p>.05) on anxiety scores based upon whether or not they occupied
a room with a color (purple, green, or orange) on the wall. Within this study twelve
patients occupied a room with a color painted on the wall at the foot of their bed (Table
4.4). The mean anxiety score of the female patients who occupied a room with color on
the wall was 35.9 and the mean anxiety score for patients in a beige room was 28.0. A
chi-squared test was not significant (p>.05) in determining whether anxiety scores were
dependent upon the color of the wall for female patients.
Male patients. A t-test run on the twenty male participants in this study showed
no significant difference on anxiety scores based upon whether or not they occupied a
room with color (purple, green, and orange) painted on the wall. Within this study
fourteen male patients occupied a room with a color painted on the wall at the foot of
their bed (Table 4.4). The mean anxiety score for the male patients who occupied a room
with color on the wall was 32.1. The mean anxiety score of the patients in a beige room
was 31.7. A chi-squared test was not significant (p>.05) in determining that anxiety
scores were dependent upon the color of the wall for male patients.
Window View and Anxiety
Based on previous studies (Ulrich, 1984, and Verderber, 1983), distance from a
window and view from a window are believed to have an effect on patient recovery. For
this study, the views out of the windows are the same from all rooms. Because these
rooms were double occupancy, some patients were closer to the windows than others.
This factor was examined to test the effect it had on patient anxiety levels. The patients
were divided into two groups based upon the location of their beds. Group A included
the patients who occupied beds closest to the window. Group B included patients who
occupied beds furthest from the window. Fifteen patients were included in Group A and
twenty-four patients were included in Group B. The participants were randomly assigned
to a bed by the hospital administration. Having more participants in Group B may have
effected the outcome of the results.
Within Group A, five patients occupied rooms with a beige wall at the foot of the
bed, three patients occupied rooms with a purple wall, six patients occupied rooms with a
green wall, and one patient occupied a room with an orange wall (Table 4.6). Within
Group B, eight patients occupied a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed, seven
patients occupied a room with a purple wall, three patients occupied a room with a green
wall, and six patients occupied a room with an orange wall during their stay in the
hospital (Table 4.6).
Table 4.6. Number of patients in each colored room based upon location of bed.
Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Group A 5 3 6 1 15
(12.8%) (7.7%) (15.4%) (2.6%)
Group B 8 7 3 6 24
(20.5%) (17.9%) (7.7%) (15.4%)
Total 13 10 9 7 39
A t-test comparing anxiety levels of patients in Group A (closest to the window)
and Group B (furthest from the window) found no significant difference (p>.05) in
anxiety levels between the two groups based on proximity to a window. The mean
anxiety score of the fifteen patients in Group A was 32.6 and the mean anxiety score of
the twenty-four patients in Group B was 32.4 (Table 4.7).
Table 4.7. Mean anxiety scores for patients in relation to their proximity to a window.
_Mean N Std. Deviation
Group A 32.60 15 10.322
Group B 32.42 24 9.311
Total 32.49 39 9.578
Group A. A t-test on the fifteen patients that occupied a bed closest to the window
found no significant (p>.05) difference between the anxiety scores based upon whether or
not they occupied a room with a color (purple, green, or orange) painted on the wall.
Within this study there were ten patients who occupied a room with color (Table 4.6).
The mean anxiety score of the patients in a room with color was 34.8 and the mean
anxiety score of the patients in a beige room was 28.2. A chi-squared test was not
significant (p>.05) in determining that the anxiety scores were dependent upon the color
painted at the foot of the patient's bed.
Group B. A t-test on the twenty-four patients who occupied a bed away from the
window found no significant (p>.05) difference between the anxiety scores based upon
whether or not the patients occupied a room with color (purple, green, or orange) on the
wall. The mean anxiety score of the patients occupying a room with color on the wall at
the foot of the bed was 33.3. The mean anxiety score of the patients in the beige rooms
was 30.6. A chi-squared test was significant (p<.05) in determining that anxiety scores
were dependent on the color painted at the foot of the bed. Because of the small sample
size, it is suggested that further tests should be run before any conclusions can be made.
Surgery and Anxiety
Ten of the patients included in the study were recovering from surgery, while
twenty-nine of the patients were simply being observed in the hospital. The effects of a
patient having surgery was examined in relation to a patient's anxiety levels. Of the ten
surgery patients, three occupied rooms with a beige wall at the foot of the bed, four
patients occupied a room with a purple wall, three patients occupied a room with a green
wall, and there were no patients who occupied a room with an orange wall (Table 4.8).
Out of the twenty-nine patients under observation, ten occupied rooms with a beige wall
at the foot of the bed, six patients occupied rooms with a purple wall at the foot of the
bed, six patients occupied a room with a green wall, and there were seven patients who
occupied a room with an orange wall at the foot of the bed (Table 4.8).
Table 4.8. Number of surgery and observation patients in each set of colored rooms.
1 Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Surgery 3 4 3 0 10
(7.7%) (10.3%) (7.7%) (0.0%)
Observation 10 6 6 7 29
(25.6%) (15.4%) 15.4%) (17.9%)
Totals 13 10 9 7 39
A t-test comparing the anxiety levels of the surgery patients and the patients under
observation found a significant (p<.05) difference in their anxiety levels. The mean
anxiety level of the ten surgery patients was 38.2 and the mean anxiety level of the
observation patients was 30.5 (Table 4.9).
Table 4.9. Mean anxiety levels of surgery patients and observation patients.
Mean N Std. Deviation
Surgery 38.20 10 11.650
Observation 30.52 29 8.074
Total 32.49 39 9.578
Based on the significant difference in anxiety levels between the surgery patients
and the observation patients, the two groups were separated to examine the effects of
color on anxiety levels within the two groups.
Surgery patients and anxiety. Within the ten surgery patients, the mean anxiety
score was 38.2. Three occupied a room that had a beige wall at the foot of the bed.
These three patients had a mean anxiety score of 38.0. Four of the surgery patients
occupied a room with a purple wall at the foot of the bed and had a mean anxiety score of
41.0. Three surgery patients occupied a room with a green wall at the foot of the bed and
had a mean anxiety score of 34.7 (Table 4.10).
Table 4.10. Mean anxiety of the surgery patients based upon the color of the room they
_Mean N Std. Deviation
Beige 38.00 3 16.093
Purple 41.00 4 11.633
Green 34.67 3 10.693
Total 38.20 10 11.650
A chi-squared test measured whether the anxiety scores were dependent on the
color of the wall at the foot of the patient bed (Table 4.11). The color on the wall at the
foot of the bed made no significant (p>.05) difference in the anxiety levels of recovering
Table 4.11. Chi-squared test on color and anxiety levels within surgery patients.
Low Anxiety High Anxiety Total
Beige Count 1 2 3
Expected Count .9 2.1 3.0
% within color 33.3% 28.6% 30.0%
Purple Count 0 4 4
Expected Count 1.2 2.8 4.0
% within color .0% 57.1% 40.0%
Green Count 2 1 3
Expected Count .9 2.1 3.0
% within color 66.7% 14.3% 30.0%
Total Count 3 7 10
Expected Count 3.0 7.0 10.0
_% within color 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Observation patients and anxiety. Within the twenty-nine observation patients,
10 occupied a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed, 6 with a purple wall, 6 with a
green wall, and 7 had a room with an orange wall at the foot of the bed. The mean
anxiety score of the observation patients was 30.5. The patients who occupied a room
with a beige wall at the foot of the bed had a mean anxiety level of 27.2. The patients
with a purple wall had a mean anxiety of 28.0. The patients who occupied a room with a
green wall had a mean anxiety level of 35.7 and the patients with an orange wall had a
mean anxiety level of 33.0 (Table 4.12).
Table 4.12. Mean anxiety of the observation patients based upon the color of the room
Mean N Std. Deviation
Beige 27.20 10 7.465
Purple 28.00 6 6.663
Green 35.67 6 10.930
Orange 33.00 7 5.066
Total 30.52 29 8.074
A chi-squared test compared the anxiety levels across observation patients in the
different colored rooms (Table 4.13). No significant (p>.05) difference was found on
patients' anxiety levels and therefore color could not be proven to effect anxiety levels.
Table 4.13. Chi-squared test on color and anxiety levels within observation patients.
Low Anxiety High Anxiety Total
Beige Count 9 1 10
Expected Count 6.9 3.1 10.0
% within color 45.0% 11.1% 34.5%
Purple Count 5 1 6
Expected Count 4.1 1.9 6.0
% within color 25.0% 11.1% 20.7%
Green Count 3 3 6
Expected Count 4.1 1.9 6.0
% within color 15.0% 33.3% 20.7
Orange Count 3 4 7
Expected Count 4.8 2.2 7.0
% within color 15.0% 44.4% 24.1%
Total Count 20 9 29
Expected Count 20.0 9.0 29.0
% within color 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Length of Stay
The study sample of 39 patients was broken into two groups in order to compare
patients who were in the hospital for similar reasons and to provide a more accurate
account of how the length of stay was effected by the color of the wall located at the foot
of the patient's bed. The first group consisted of 10 patients recovering from surgery.
Their length of stay ranged from 2 to 6 days. Three patients recovered in a room with a
beige wall at the foot of the bed; four patients recovered in a room with a purple wall;
three patients recovered in a room with a green wall; and there were no surgery patients
who recovered in a room with an orange wall (Table 4.8). The second group comprised
29 patients under observation. The patients who were occupying the observed hospital
rooms while under physician observation had lengths of stay ranging from 2 to 6 days.
Ten of these patients occupied rooms with a beige wall at the foot of the bed; six
occupied rooms with a purple wall; six occupied rooms with a green wall; and seven
occupied rooms with an orange wall (Table 4.8).
As shown in Table 4.14, the average length of stay for a patient recovering from
surgery in a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed was 5.3 days. The average
length of stay for patients with a purple wall was 4.3 days and for patients with a green
wall the average length of stay was 4.0 days (Table 4.14). Chi-squared tests revealed that
there was no significant (p>.05) difference between the patients' length of stay based on
the color of the wall at the foot of the bed.
Table 4.14. Average length of stay for surgery and observation patients recovering in
each set of colored rooms.
Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Surgery 5.3 4.3 4.0 4.5
Observation 3.8 3.0 2.7 3.0 3.2
Totals 4.2 3.5 3.1 3.0 3.5
Patients under observation who occupied a room with a beige wall at the foot of the
bed had an average length of stay of 3.8 days. The average stay for a patient occupying a
room with a purple wall was 3.0 days. A patient occupying a room with a green wall had
an average length of stay of 2.7 days, and a patient in a room with an orange wall had an
average length of stay of 3.0 days (Table 4.14). There was no significant (p>.05)
difference between the average lengths of stay based on the wall color at the foot of the
patient's bed. A small sample size may have yielded results that are not statistically
significant throughout the study.
Pain Medication Requests
Nurses' notes were reviewed to determine the number of pain medication requests
for each day of the patient's hospital stay. For example, if a patient requested three doses
of pain medication on the first day of their hospital stay, a three would be recorded under
day one for that particular patient. The sample was again divided into two groups for the
purpose of analysis. The first group contained the ten surgery patients and the second
group contained the twenty-nine patients under physician observation. Out of the twenty-
nine total patients under observation, thirteen of them had no medication requests during
their stay. Therefore, only the sixteen observation patients who requested pain
medication during their stay were included in the examination of pain medication
requests on observation patients. Seven of the sixteen observation patients who requested
pain medication occupied a room with the wall at the foot of the bed painted beige.
Three of the patients occupied a room with a purple wall, three of the patients occupied a
room with a green wall, and three of the patients occupied a room with an orange wall
(Table 4.15). Out of the ten surgery patients, three of the surgery patients recovered in a
room with a beige wall at the foot of the hospital bed, four recovered in a room with a
purple wall, three recovered in room with a green wall, and there were no surgery
patients who recovered in a room with an orange wall (Table 4.15).
Table 4.15. Number of patients who requested medication during their stay in each
Beige Purple Green Orange Total
Surgery 3 4 3 0 10
(7.7%) (10.3%) (7.7%) (0.0%)
Observation 7 3 3 3 16
(43.8%) (18.8%) (18.8%) (18.8%)
Total 10 7 6 3 26
Pain medication requests were examined separately for the first and last days of a
patient's stay in a hospital. It was anticipated that a patient would experience the highest
level of pain on the first day and the least amount of pain on the last day making it
difficult to compare medication requests for all other days in between. The "middle
days," after the first day and before the last day, were all compared together. The
patients' length of stay varied and these could be any where from the second day in the
hospital to the fifth day.
Surgery patients' medication requests. The surgery patients' medication
requests varied from 2 to 6 doses on the first day of their stay in the hospital. Surgery
patients recovering in a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed had an average of
5.3 doses of medication requested on their first day of their hospital stay. The patients
recovering in a room with a purple wall at the foot of the bed had an average of 4.3 doses
requested and the patients occupying a room with a green wall had an average of 4.0
doses of medication requested on the first day of their stay in the hospital (Table 4.16).
There were no surgery patients that recovered in an orange room. The average number of
pain medication requests on the first day of the patients' hospital stay was not statistically
Table 4.16. Average number of medication requests by surgery patients during their stay
in the hospital.
1 Beige Purple Green Orange Total
First Day 5.3 4.3 4.0 4.2
Middle Days 3.5 3.2 3.5 3.4
Last Day 0.0 0.8 0.3 0.4
Totals 3.1 3.2 2.3 2.9
During the "middle days" of the surgery patients stay, the patients' medication
requests ranged from 0 to 10 doses per day. The three surgery patients who occupied a
beige room during their stay requested an average of 3.5 doses of pain medication during
the middle days of their stay. The four surgery patients who occupied a room with a
purple wall average 3.2 doses of medication requested and the patients who occupied a
room with a green wall requested 3.5 doses of pain medication (Table 4.16). There were
no surgery patients that occupied an orange room during their stay in the hospital. The
average number of the pain medication requests during the "middle days" of the patients'
stay was not statistically significant (p>.05).
The doses of pain medication requested on the final day of the hospital stay ranged
from zero to two doses. The three patients who occupied the rooms with a beige wall at
the foot of the bed had 0.0 requests for pain medication on the final day of their stay in
the hospital. The four patients who occupied a room with a purple wall had an average of
0.8 pain medication requests and the three patients who occupied a room with a green
wall had an average of 0.3 pain medication requests on the last day of their stay in the
hospital (Table 4.16). There were no surgery patients that occupied an orange room
during their stay in the hospital. The average number of the pain medication requests
during the final day of the patients' stay was not statistically significant (p>.05).
Observation patients' medication requests. The observation patients who
requested pain medication during their stay had a range of zero to four doses requested on
the first day of their stay in the hospital. The patients who occupied a room with a beige
wall at the foot of their bed had a mean of 0.7 doses of medication requested and the
patients with a purple wall had an average of 1.0 medication requests. The observation
patients who occupied a room with a green wall had an average of 2.0 pain medication
requests and the patients who occupied a room with an orange wall had an average of 0.3
medication requests on the first day of their stay in the hospital (Table 4.17).
Table 4.17. Average number of medication requests by observation patients who request
pain medication during their stay in the hospital.
Beige Purple Green Orange Total
First Day 0.7 1.0 2.0 0.3 0.9
Middle Days 1.3 1.4 0.5 0.7 1.4
Last Day 0.4 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3
Totals 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.5 1.0
During the "middle days" the observation patients requested between zero and five
doses of pain medication per day. The seven patients who occupied a room with a beige
wall at the foot of the bed had an average of 1.3 pain medication requests per day. The
three patients who occupied a room with a purple wall had an average of 1.4 pain
medication requests per day. The three patients who occupied a room with a green wall
had an average of 0.5 medication requests per day and the patients who occupied a room
with an orange wall had an average of 0.7 medication requests per day (Table 4.17).
Lastly, the pain medication requests were examined for the observation patients on
the final day of their hospital stay. The sixteen observation patients who requested pain
medication during their stay requested between zero and one dose of medication on the
last day. The patients occupying a room with a beige wall at the foot of the bed had an
average of 0.4 medication requests on their final day. The patients who occupied a room
with a purple wall had no medication requests. The patients who occupied a room with a
green wall had an average of 0.3 medication requests and the patients who occupied a
room with an orange wall had an average of 0.3 medication requests on their final day
Patients' Opinions About the Colors
Patients willingly gave their opinions about the various colors located in their
rooms during their stay. All but 5 of the patients who occupied rooms with a wall painted
purple, green, or orange claimed that they had noticed the color upon entering the room.
The patients in the rooms with all walls painted beige were disappointed that they did not
get placed in a room with a color on the wall. One patient, located furthest from the
window in a beige room, claimed that there was no way that color could have any effect
on her. In her following statement she said that she had enjoyed her stay in the hospital
more on her previous time in the hospital because she had occupied a bed close to the
window and she felt this uplifted her mood.
Several of the patients also talked about their preferences for a particular color in
their room. Patients had mixed feelings about the all beige rooms. Some patients,
particularly the males, tended to like the beige rooms and claimed that if they had had
their own way their own homes would all be painted beige. Some of the female patients
claimed that the beige walls made the space feel very institutional and that color would
make them feel more comfortable.
Opinions about the rooms with a purple wall at the foot of the bed varied. Many of
the male patients did not care for the color. They claimed that it made the room feel too
dark. Some women really enjoyed the purple color. They said that it was very soft and
made them feel comfortable. Overall, the opinions regarding the purple color varied with
approximately an equal number of patients liking and disliking the color.
The green color also produced various opinions. Some of the male patients
claimed that they liked the color. They claimed that it probably wouldn't be a color that
they would put in their homes, but that they didn't mind it in the hospital rooms. The
majority of the women did not care for the green color. They stated that it reminded them
of a "hospital green." Upon investigation about what they believed a "hospital green"
was, it was discovered that it referred to the color associated with a typical pair of scrubs.
The patients' opinions were very similar in regards to the orange color. The
patients all claimed that they had noticed the color upon entering the room. Many said it
was a nice surprise to see color on the wall. The patients felt that this color of orange
brightened up the room and gave a welcome relief to the beige throughout the majority of
Overall, more female patients than male patients enjoyed the purple color. The one
main complaint was that it made the room feel dark. Regarding the green color, more
male patients seemed to like, or at least not mind the color, than female patients. The
female patients said the green color made the room feel too much like a hospital. Lastly,
both the male and female patients enjoyed the orange color. Overall, the patients in the
beige rooms appeared disappointed that their rooms did not contain colors on the wall.
Hospital Employee's Opinions About the Colors
The hospital employees, including the nurses, patient care assistants, and general
staff, had many opinions about the colors. Overall, the employees said that they were
ready for color in this particular area of the hospital, even asking if the colors could be
kept after the study ended. All the walls in the cardiac care unit of the hospital, except
for the ones painted for this study remained beige. The nurses' station had recently been
remodeled and the nurses claimed they were disappointed that the only color incorporated
was a neutral gray.
One of the nurses claimed that the colored rooms helped them to identify the rooms
and different patients. The nurses were typically responsible for multiple adjoining
rooms. The rooms next to each other were painted different colors for this study, which
made the nurses responsible for three rooms of three different colors.
At the beginning of the study, many of the hospital employees really enjoyed the
purple color. One employee, in fact, painted her bedroom in her home a similar color
after seeing it at the hospital. Toward the end of the study, after the employees had spent
some time in the rooms with a wall at the foot of the bed painted purple, many felt that
the rooms felt too dark compared to the other rooms.
Most of the interviewed hospital employees stated that the green color seemed to be
the most appropriate color for a hospital. When asked why green was associated with
hospitals, no one knew. The nurses believed that the green seemed to match the laminate
and the curtains in the rooms the best. As an interesting side note, none of the patients
mentioned whether the colors coordinated with the rest of the objects in the room.
Every female hospital employee that was interviewed claimed that they enjoyed the
orange color. Four or five of the nurses stated that the orange matched the orange tiles on
the floor well. They felt the color was overall bright and uplifting. A couple of the male
employees claimed that the shade of orange was not attractive.
The interesting note regarding the opinions of the patients and the hospital
employees is that they are very similar. This is surprising because the nurses' opinions
were based on having the ability to experience all three colors, as well as, the beige
control rooms. They also spent more time in all of the rooms than the patients did. The
patients had a more limited experience with the colors because they only occupied a
single color for between 2 and 6 days.
Psychological and physiological responses to color have interested scholars and
medical caretakers for centuries. As early as 500 BC, the Greeks, Persians, Assyrians,
Babylonians, and Egyptians believed color cured diseases. With the development of
modern medicine, the focus on the healing power of color was set aside, or left for the
artists and poets such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) to ponder. Goethe's
philosophy was that colors produced moods, which then formed the mind-body
connection and effected healing.
When color healing was reunited with modem medicine, it was in a new form
known as chromotherapy. Chromotherapy is the application of colored beams of light to
particular body parts to activate nerves and promote healing. Modem architects,
designers, doctors, and hospital administrators have also started examining the effects
that the built environment can have on recovery and healing. Within the built
environment, color can have an impact on patients' emotions, which can ultimately effect
This study was undertaken to examine the specific effects that color can have on a
patient's recovery within a hospital setting. Recovery was examined through recovery
rate (length of stay), perception of pain (pain medication requests), and emotional
responses (anxiety levels). Participants of this study included thirty-nine patients
suffering from a cardiac illness. The patients ranged in age from 26 to 89. Nineteen of
the patients were female and twenty patients were male. All participants were randomly
placed in one of the hospital rooms included in the study.
Ten rooms located on the fifth floor of Shands hospital in Gainesville, Florida were
used in this study. The rooms were part of the Cardiac Care Unit of the hospital and were
all double occupancy rooms. The participants were either placed in one of the four
control rooms (all beige walls) or one of the six experimental rooms (with one wall in the
room painted purple, green, or orange). On the participants' final day of their stay in the
hospital, their length of stay, pain medication requests, and anxiety levels were examined.
The participants' anxiety levels were compared between the ten surgery patients
and the twenty-nine patients under observation by using a t-test to examine the mean
scores based upon the color of the wall in the patient's room. A chi-squared test was
performed to examine if anxiety levels were dependent upon the color of the wall at the
foot of the patients' beds. Length of stay was also examined using a t-test to compare the
means and a chi-squared test was used to examine whether the patients' length of stay
was dependent upon the color of the wall at the foot of the bed they occupied. Lastly, the
patients' pain medication requests were examined between the two groups of surgery and
observation patients. A t-test examined the means of pain medication request on the first
day, the middle days, and the final day of the patients' stay in the hospital. Chi-squared
tests were also run to determine whether pain medication requests could be determined to
be dependent based upon the color of the wall at the foot of the bed. All findings were
inconclusive due to the small sample size.
Anxiety levels were analyzed with respect to the color of the wall at the foot of the
bed, the participants' gender, the participants' proximity to the window within the room,
and whether or not the patient had had surgery. In this study, the anxiety levels were not
dependent upon the color painted on the wall at the foot of the patients' beds. Although
the evidence was not significant, it appeared that beige was moving in the direction of
produced the lowest anxiety levels followed by orange. Green yielded the highest
The anxiety levels did not appear to vary based upon the participants' gender or
their proximity to a window. A t-test showed that having surgery was statistically
significant (p<.05) in determining the anxiety levels of the patients. Patients having
surgery had a higher level of anxiety than the observation patients.
There was not significant evidence (p>.05) that anxiety levels were dependent on
the color of the wall at the foot of the bed for patients undergoing surgery. Within this
study, the surgery patients who occupied a room with a green wall at the foot of the bed
had the lowest average anxiety rates, followed by the patients in the beige rooms. The
patients who occupied rooms with a purple wall at the foot of the bed had the highest
average anxiety rates of all the surgery patients. There were no surgery patients who
occupied any of the rooms with an orange wall at the foot of the bed.
Similarly, there was not significant evidence that anxiety levels were dependent on
color for patients under observation. Although there was no significant evidence, the
observation patients in the beige rooms had the lowest average anxiety rates. This was
followed by the average anxiety rate of the patients with a purple wall at the foot of the
bed and the patients with an orange wall at the foot of the bed. This highest anxiety
levels were associated with the patients with a green wall painted at the foot of the bed.
When all thirty-nine participants' anxiety levels were analyzed, it appeared as
though the beige control rooms produced the lowest anxiety levels. The average anxiety
levels of the surgery patients suggested that the rooms with a green wall at the foot of the
patients' bed produced the lowest anxiety levels. The average anxiety levels of the
twenty-nine observation patients suggested that the beige rooms produced the lowest
anxiety levels. Further tests are needed to draw conclusions about colors that produce the
lowest levels of anxiety.
This study showed that color on the wall at the foot of the patient bed could not be
shown to be statistically significant (p>.05) in predicting a patient's recovery based upon
the patient's length of stay. The surgical patients who recovered in a green room had a
slightly lower length of stay than the patients in the purple and beige rooms. The
observation patients in this study had the shortest length of stay in the green rooms,
followed by the patients in the orange rooms and the patients in the purple rooms. The
observation patients who occupied the beige rooms had the longest length of stay.
Overall, this study suggested that green might be the best color to promote a shorter
length of stay. Once again, definitive conclusions cannot be made based on the small
This study did not find that pain medication requests were dependent on the color
of the wall at the foot of the bed. Colors that might reduce the patients' perception of
pain or amount of pain medication requested were not identified.
Some knowledge was gained through the informal interviews with the hospital staff
and the patients. It was concluded that based on preference, orange would be the best
color to paint the rooms within this unit of the hospital. The purple rooms were the least
liked by both the patients and the staff. Green was viewed as a color typically associated
with a hospital setting. Overall, opinions suggested that color should be incorporated into
patient rooms within the hospital setting.
Results found in this study further this researcher's belief that colors should be
chosen for an environment based on the type of patient who will occupy the space and
not based on the designers' preferences. By investigating the color preferences of the
people who will ultimately occupy the space and the implications that those colors may
have on the individuals, designers can create a space that focuses on healing.
Limitations and Assumptions
Many factors may have impacted the statistical results. First the sample size was
very small. Because this was a pilot study, it was impossible to determine the number of
patients that would qualify to participate in the study. Further, it was not anticipated that
the patients would have to be divided into two groups, those who had and did not have
surgery. This reduced the sample size of the patients who had had surgery to only ten
participants with no participants occupying an orange room. The sample size of the
observation patients was limited to twenty-nine participants.
Second, although an attempt was made to include only participants with a similar
type of illness, this researcher believes that the various degrees of illness found within the
sample had a detrimental effect on the study. The length of stay in the hospital and
amount of pain medication requests will vary by the illness or surgery that each
Third, bedside manner may have played a role in the participants' recovery. It is
unclear how much effect doctors' and nurses' reactions and responses to the patients can
have on the patients' psychological state and ability to recover. Each participant had
numerous nurses during their stay and this could have effected different patients in
various ways. There were also several doctors who had patients participating in this
study. Each doctor may have a different opinion about how much information to give
their patients, which could impact the participants' anxiety level. It is also possible that
each doctor varied on his or her beliefs about what criteria should be used to determine
when to discharge a patient. Ultimately, it was the doctors' decision to release the
patients and this would effect the patients' length of stay.
Fourth, it is unclear what effect color can have on the amount of pain medication a
patient requested. It is possible that the amount may be impacted by the individual's
tolerance to pain. The participants' requests for pain medication may also vary based
upon their cultural and religious beliefs. Therefore, the physical environment may have
little, if anything, to do with perception of pain. There was a limited amount of
demographic information collected on the patients. The demographic information
collected about the patients was limited to gender and age. There was no information
collected regarding each patient's religious preference, cultural background, or social
Fifth, no attempt was made to determine the participants' color preferences ahead
of time. Color preference may be influenced by psychological types, age, gender, social
status, and culture (Park, 2002). It is not known what effect color preference can have on
anxiety levels. This researcher believes that if a patient was placed in a room with a color
on the wall that he or she dislikes, the anxiety levels could be altered negatively.
Finally, this researcher found it nearly impossible to eliminate many of the colors
not being tested from the room. Although, the tested colors were introduced into the
space through paint on a large wall surface, the drapery, flooring, and countertops
contained other colors. It is unclear how much of one color needs to be present in order
to have an effect on an individual.
Suggestions for Further Research
Further studies need to be conducted before any conclusions concerning the effect
of color on patient recovery can be made. Several items should be considered before
undertaking another color study including the extensive process of obtaining consent.
There are five main areas requiring further examination in future studies; the complexity
of the participants in terms of illnesses and treatments, the complexity of the colors in
terms of hue, value, and intensity, the demographics being studied, the regional
characteristics of the area in which the study took place, and the patients' preferences for
Gaining consent. Attaining consent to perform research in a hospital requires
permission from the Medical Institutional Review Board. Due to the increased likelihood
of ill patients being negatively effected by research, the medical review board process
requires permission of the doctors' of all the patients involved. Since many doctors do
not have the time to review a study protocol, seeking permission from doctors can be
time consuming. A non-medical review board process takes approximately two to three
weeks; gaining permission for this study took three months.
The hospital staff administration approved a four week period for the study. At the
end of the study, it was apparent that it is more appropriate to run a study for as long as
needed to get an adequate sample size. The small sample size for this study impacted the
conclusions that could be drawn. It is suggested that future researchers should consult a
statistician early in the study to determine how many participants will be needed to run a
statistical analysis. This study was set-up using a time frame, upon the conclusion of the
study it was determined to be more appropriate to run the study for as long as needed to
get the appropriate sample size.
Complexity of the participants. Minimizing the differences between patients is
important. For example, future studies should involve patients with the same illness or
same type of surgery who are treated by the same physician and nursing staff. A better
understanding of the participant should be gained through interviews with the doctors and
nurses. Questions should be asked in regards to the participant's level of pain tolerance
and degree of social support. By gaining a better understanding of the participant, the
future researcher will be able to distinguish if the results are related to the complexity of
the various patients or by the actual intervention.
Complexity of the colors. Future researchers should consider testing different
color palettes rather than just one color. In an actual interior environment, people are not
surrounded by only one color, but rather by a multitude of colors that are believed to
work together to create an environment. By testing palettes, the researcher can provide a
designer with an accurate way of producing the most healing environments, rather than
just providing them with one color to use. The colors should coordinate with the colors
already in the room. They should also be of various values and saturation levels. It
would be ideal to test different types of color schemes, such as monochromatic,
analogous, complementary, etc.
Patient demographics. Further studies should examine each patient's
demographic characteristics to be able to determine whether or not this information can
play a part in determining the outcome of the study. At the conclusion of this study, it is
this researchers belief that the demographic characteristics can play a part in the patients'
recovery rate based upon how comfortable the environment makes them feel. For
example, patients within this study who appeared to be from a higher socio-economic
class claimed they felt more comfortable in a painted room because it gave them the
feeling of being in a hotel, not a hospital. Patients who appeared to be from a lower
socio-economic class claimed they felt more comfortable in the beige rooms because they
felt like they were in a hospital and receiving medical care. It is anticipated that a patient
who is comfortable in the environment will have a more competent psychological state
and be able to better adapt to the healing and recovery process. This researcher suggests
that future researchers explore; age, gender, education, culture, religion, and social-status.
Regional information. Design styles vary in different countries around the world.
It is further noted that in the United States design styles vary according to regions and
climates within the country. It is unclear what effect the design style of the southeast
could have played in the results of this study on color. It is suggested that further
research should be conducted in various parts of the United States to determine if there
are regional differences that could influence the outcome of the study.
Patient and staff preferences. Within this study, patient and staff preferences for
particular colors were stated informally in conversations with the researcher. It is highly
recommended that in further studies, a formal qualitative approach should be
incorporated to determine what effect the respondent's preference for a particular color
has on the outcome of the study. For example, the opinions of both the patients and staff
about the particular colors in the environment should be ascertained. Further
investigation should also include questions about the color preferences incorporated into
the individual's particular home. It is also suggested that the researcher ask the patients
and staff about the colors that they have noticed in other hospitals that they have visited.
This information could be beneficial in determining how an individual's preference for
color can effect his or her recovery process.
The greatest knowledge gained from this study was the understanding that the
variable of color within the interior of a hospital is more complex than originally
anticipated. This study was designed in a quantitative framework that did not take into
account the complexity of the effect that color plays on human psychological and
physiological states. Some designers select a color palette that focuses on the meanings
and significance of particular colors in relation to the users of the space. This works well
in a homogenous environment, but hospitals are complex environments used by a host of
multicultural patients, medical staff, food service and maintenance workers (Park and
Guerin, 2002). The optimal way to study color in a medical setting was found to
combine qualitative and quantitative methods. Patient recovery is a complex variable
that may be effected by many variables. When designing a hospital setting, the effects of
both qualitative and quantitative variables on patients should be explored. This will
allow designers to make an educated decision on how to create the most healing
environments. The following is a framework designed to provide future researchers with
the knowledge gained from this study. It is intended to provide researchers with a place
to start when designing future studies of color in healthcare.
Framework for Future Researchers
A framework for future research is discussed below.
S Research Setting
Investigate regional design preferences.
Study should be conducted in various regions throughout the United
Area of the Hospital
The unit of the hospital used should include patients with similar
The unit should have a limited number of doctors and nurses.
The unit should include enough similar rooms so a comparison can be
Rooms should be single occupancy.
Rooms should be the same size.
Rooms should have the same size window to provide the same amount
of natural light.
Rooms should provide the same view out of the window.
Choose colors that coordinate with existing furnishings.
Choose colors that are not believed to be harmful to the patients.
Test a variety of color palettes.
Test various hues, intensities, and values.
Remove as many of the environmental factors that may effect a
patient's recovery as possible.
Patients should all have the same illness or have undergone the same
The illness should not be life threatening.
The illness or surgery should require the patients to stay in the hospital
for a similar amount of time.
The illness or surgery should require the patients to request a similar
amount of pain medication.
Data Collection and Analysis
Preliminary Research and Literature Review
Investigate other environmental factors such as, view from a window,
ceiling texture, noise level, etc., that may effect a patient's
Investigate the illness being studied in terms of typical lengths of stay,
medication requests, etc.
Investigate hospital dynamics.
Contact statistician to determine the needed sample size to run
appropriate data analysis.
Run study until the proper sample size is obtained, not for a specified
amount of time.
Preliminary Data Collection
Collect information about patient and staff color preferences.
Collect demographic information (age, gender, education, social-
status, etc.) on participants.
Interview doctors and nurses to gain information about pain tolerance,
social support, etc. for each participant.
Testing Recovery Variables
An anxiety test is a good means of testing the effects of color.
A follow-up test is suggested to determine the patient's normal
level of anxiety.
Collect patients' lengths of stay and compare them amongst each other
as well as with predetermined typical lengths of stay.
Collect patients' medication requests on a daily basis and compare
them among the individual patients as well as with the entire
STATE-TRAIT ANXIETY INVENTORY (STAI)
The S-Anxiety scale consists of twenty statements that evaluate how respondents
feel "right now, at this moment."
1 = NOT AT ALL 2 = SOMEWHAT 3 = MODERATELY SO 4 = VERY MUCH SO
I feel at ease. 1 2 3 4
I feel upset. 1 2 3 4
The T-Anxiety scale consists of twenty statements that assess how respondents feel
1 = ALMOST NEVER 2 = SOMETIMES 3= OFTEN 4 = ALMOST ALWAYS
I feel at ease. 1 2 3 4
I feel upset. 1 2 3 4
The STAI can be ordered from:
1690 Woodside Road, Suite #202
Redwood City, CA 94061
Phone: (650) 261-3500 Fax: (650) 261-3505
e-mail: email@example.com website: www.mindgarden.com
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Kortney Jo Edge was born and raised in Southern California. Upon graduation
from high school she began studying interior design at California State University,
Fresno, where she was a member of the 1998 NCAA National Championship softball
team. After her third semester, she transferred to the University of Florida and changed
her major to sociology, all while continuing to play softball. Upon receiving a Bachelor
of Arts degree in liberal arts and sciences, she took an internship in the interiors
department of an architecture firm.
While obtaining her master's at the University of Florida in interior design,
Kortney began her investigation on human responses to color. In order to gain a better
understanding of the different specialties within the field of interior design, she accepted
an internship with a design firm specializing in hospitality. Through her experiences in
school, and through her internships, she has become very excited about all the
possibilities that the interior design profession has to offer her. Kortney is anticipating
being able to incorporate her knowledge gained during researching into the profession of
In her spare time, Kortney enjoys spending time with family and friends.