Number 2 in our countdown of '70 Ways Art Improves Our Health' highlights that art lowers levels of anxiety, stress and depression for patients and carers…

At some point in our lives, we will all find ourselves within health or social care. Whether from injury, illness, age, or simply visiting a friend or family member. Each and every one of us will spend time in a hospital, a GP surgery, a care home or a hospice.

Experiencing these care spaces can summon a surge of negative feelings and emotions. Not only for patients and service users but also their loved ones and even the professionals caring for them. This fact has been confirmed by a large number of studies of many different kinds of care.

It is widely acknowledged that the stress caused by admission to hospital has the potential to hinder patient recovery, and in extreme cases can cause lasting psychological problems. The drastic upheaval of hospitalisation and subsequent treatments make up a period of severe anxiety for patients and their family.

Research by the University of Queensland shows us one example of this. Through several studies researchers found that between 10-15% of young people who are admitted to hospital after an injury develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their experience. And for those admitted to intensive care, the rate of PTSD is much higher, around 20-25%.

A picture in A&E takes me to a different place. I thought you should know that your work not only helps the ill get better, it helps the well stay well.

Police officer, Glan Clwyd Hospital

Many factors contribute to the stress associated with admission to care, such as: discomfort and pain, anxiety around recovery, sleeping in a strange bed or sharing a room with others. Most care professionals are aware of these factors and try their best to reassure patients and alleviate their anxieties.

However, there is already an evidenced method of addressing and preventing this stress.

Visual arts interventions have been shown to offer a number of benefits via many studies. These benefits have included: decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones in patients with breast cancer; reducing levels of depression in haemodialysis patients; reducing stress and anxiety for cancer patients; and reducing stress, fatigue and increasing healing for trauma patients.

Additionally, the 2003 study by Dr Rosalia Staricoff found that incorporating visual art into the care environment was highly effective in diminishing levels of depression in Medical Day Unit patients. And it significantly lowered levels of anxiety and depression for Day Surgery patients, when compared to those who were prepared for surgery in the absence of visual art.

The same study found that 96% of clinicians and 91% of nurses found the integration of the arts into healthcare contributed to a positive working environment, with potential to boost staff morale and increase in staff retention.

We think everyone visiting, living and working in health and social care should have the chance to experience the benefits of art. That's why we're dedicated to bringing art to people through our artwork loans and art activities. If you’d like to know more about getting art for your care site, contact us now.

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