Colour has psychological and physiological effects on humans, hence the reason why business owners and marketers often give extensive thought to colour when they choose branding. If the colour of a logo can influence consumer mood, it is very likely that colours in healthcare facilities can promote better mood and health.

Colour – the influencer of mood and emotions

Colour influences our moods and emotions much more than we realise. When deciding on a colour, the audience targeted picks the colour: men or women, adults or children, upper class or middle class. Different colours speak to different groups. Choosing the right colour can attract the right audience and subliminally affect their mood and behaviour.

Emotions evoked by colours

Interior designers use colours in healthcare spaces to provide inspiration and quick healing. It is pure science when we say colours are infused with healing power, and they could influence patients’ responses towards medical care and their actual recovery too.

Characteristics spectral energy distributions (SEDs) for an incandescent lamp (left) and a fluorescent lamp (right)

Perhaps more important is to create balance and contrast with different colours and saturation. For example, a room that’s predominantly “cool” needs to be balanced with “warm” but neutral elements like wood. Retirement facilities can’t be predominantly bright red, although lots of warm, highly saturated hues against dark and/or neutral backgrounds can give them a bright, homey atmosphere. In children’s hospitals, or even in hospitals that have areas where kids can be active and creative, contrasting colours can provide that stimulation. In a hospital, then, a simple way to encourage calmness is to paint the walls soothing colours.

The properties of the seven major colours are as follows:

Light reflectance value of different surfaces
  • Red is a bold, energising colour that conveys strength and passion and encourages alertness.
  • Red is recommended for patients with dementia, who need brain stimulus, and is also ideal for memory care services in senior homes. Red can cause anxiety, raise blood temperature and cause over-stimulation so it is not recommended for patients who need a lot of rest and sleep.  
  • Blue is soothing and symbolises the sky and sea. It lowers the heart rate, relieves insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure, and alleviates tension, stress and problems with the immune system, therefore allowing the body quiet time to heal itself. Blue conveys peace and trustworthiness and evokes tranquillity. The effect of cool, muted hues such as blue, green and purple is very calming, making them ideal for hospital rooms, wards, waiting areas and wellness centres.
  • Green creates balance and harmony within the body. It is especially good for heart and blood problems. It is known to influence the human cell structure and muscles.
  • Purple is associated with the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It helps with head congestion and sinuses and is known to calm the nervous system.
  • Pink is a healing colour. Soft, natural pink tones calm and nurture our being.
  • Yellow is thought to have decongestant and antibacterial properties to act as a cleanser for the body. It has been known to help relieve rheumatism and arthritis. Yellow suggests vibrancy and cheerfulness, and orange conveys friendliness and creativity. Companies that target children frequently accent with yellows and oranges to communicate vibrancy, youthfulness and happiness.
  • Orange gives vitality to the body and is associated with the kidneys, urinary tract and reproductive organs.

Chromotherapy

Colour in healthcare design

Colour and the mind

Some health practitioners believe in the physical healing power of light and colour in solving medical problems. Chromotherapy, also known as colorology, is an alternative method in medicine that explains the healing properties of colour. A chromotherapist applies specific colours or lights to specific points on the body called “chakras”. Different colours have different effects.

ABC News reported that positive mood and happiness are linked to overall better health. Being in a hospital is a stressful experience and if certain colours can encourage calmness and happiness, it is beneficial. It is a proven fact that colour can influence a person’s perception of their surroundings.

Colour helps assess the level of care: The first thing a patient notices upon entering the hospital is the larger part of the room. We know colour influences human psychology and is directly related to a person’s state of mind, be it home, hospital or another space. Walls painted with lighter shades have proven to make people feel accepted, while medium shades help create trust. Colour can accelerate healing and can influence human behaviour. Therefore, colour should be the basis of designing the interior décor process of a healthcare facility.

Colourful health care

The use of colour in designated areas

  • Waiting rooms: Uplifting and interesting colour schemes, with accent colours to highlight different departments and create modern and contemporary environments.
  • Corridors and receptions: Can be divided with strong accent colours in order to aid navigation and wayfinding, and to help identify different departments.
  • Intensive care unitsCalming and restful with soft neutral tones.
  • Consultation roomsWarn neutral colours in the main area with accent colours behind desks.

Operating theatresUsually painted with a cooler, muted palette of green or blue/green to neutralise the after image produced by the surgeon’s concentration.

Proven benefits of incorporating colour in healthcare facilities

A study was done by the Department of Applied Design at the Appalachian State University in the  United States and the Department of Interior Design at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

Results indicate that colour impacts healthcare outcomes by reducing medical errors, promoting a sense of well-being, reducing stress, improving patients’ sleep, reducing the length of stay and spatial disorientation, al while increasing patient satisfaction, staff morale and productivity.

In Part 2 in the next issue, we will delve deeper into the nature and perception of colour.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.shieldcasework.com/the-psychology-of-color-in-healthcare-design/; https://www.fohlio.com/blog/healthcare-design-psychology-color;
https://simourdesign.com/psychology-of-colors-in-healthcare-spaces/ for the information in this editorial.

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