The idea that color plays a role in psychology and emotion, and even has physiological effects, is not new. Consider some common sayings: red with anger…feeling blue…green with envy.
The healthcare industry understands this, and uses color to evoke certain moods and behaviors in patients.
The Impact of Color in Healthcare Facilities
Healthcare providers use color in a number of ways, depending on what their goal is. If the aim is avoiding certain behaviors or feelings, a facility will avoid using particular colors. The opposite is also true.
For example, blue and green are calming colors, and you often see them deployed in patient settings as a means of creating an environment in which patients feel relaxed and comfortable. However, blue also works as an appetite suppressant, whereas orange has been shown to stimulate appetite. Facilities treating with patients with eating disorders, such as anorexia, often employ orange in dining areas.
You won’t see a lot of orange, however, in facilities treating patients with certain behavioral health issues. Why? Because orange has also been shown to stimulate mental activity. Shades of pink are far more effective in these environments.
Yellow is often missing from hospital nurseries and maternity wards, because it seems to cause babies to cry.
Hospitals and other healthcare providers typically opt for neutral tones as their main colors, and employ strategic accent colors in certain areas, such as waiting rooms and cafeterias.
The Emotions of Color
Different colors evoke different emotions and feelings, influencing healing as well as the wellbeing of employees.
- Black: a neutral color invoking mystery and authority; not a common choice in medical settings.
- Blue: cool and calming, blue has been proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve breathing, and increase strength.
- Earth tones: shades of browns and tans that create a warm, welcoming, soothing environment and a sense of stability.
- Gray: a neutral color invoking a restful feeling; used to cool or negate strong, vibrant colors.
- Green: a healing color associated with nature, renewal, harmony, and balance, green relieves stress and is good for the circulatory system, including the heart and lungs.
- Orange: this is a warm color associated with the nervous system and circulation, positively affecting mental function due to increasing the brain’s supply of oxygen.
- Pink: this warm color has been proven in numerous studies to calm and soothe people; there is a shade of pink called Baker-Miller, named for two naval officers who painted the holding cell in the Seattle U.S. Naval Correctional Center pink, in an attempt to reduce aggression. The results were so positive that facilities across the country now employ Baker-Miller pink when treating agitated, erratic patients.
- Purple: associated with creativity, purple promotes nonverbal communication and positively influences mental activity.
- Red: a bold, warm color that invigorates and energizes, red is shown to increase activity and boisterous behaviors.
- Turquoise: a cool, invigorating color that soothes yet also invigorates thanks to its likeness to water.
- White: a neutral color that invokes feelings of purity and cleanliness; used to cool or negate strong vibrant colors.
- Yellow: warm and inviting, but lighter shades tend to reflect more light, causing eye fatigue. Yellow is good for patients with breathing problems.
Areas to Consider Adding Color
With color providing such a wide variety of benefits, knowing where to add which colors may be confusing. To that end, we offer suggestions for different rooms and areas of the facility.
In patient rooms, you want softer colors for walls and floors, using paints with reflective values in the 40 to 60 percent range. Don’t neglect the ceilings, since patients spend most of their time in the supine position. Choose warm, soft colors, such as peaches, corals, pale golds, and roses. In your long-term rooms, incorporate turquoises and light greens.
Waiting rooms require soothing, calming colors for anxious family and friends. Used correctly, color also helps create a feeling that time passes more quickly. Blues, greens, and turquoise or aqua are good choices for waiting rooms.
Areas used for recreation, as well as visiting rooms and solaria, are places where you can add more color, particularly earth tones such as terracotta. You can also work in more vibrant greens and blues.
Examination rooms want soothing colors. Shades of pink, such as coral and peach, make good choices. Light greens work well for treatment rooms, especially for longer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
In the surgery, reduce glare and create contrast for the surgeon with blues and greens. Physiotherapy and x-ray rooms benefit from relaxing shades of green and turquoise. In offices and labs, look to neutral grays with subtle, neutral earth tone accents.
If you’re interested in learning more about how color and paint can promote healing in your medical facility, contact CBP for a complimentary consultation. We’ll review your site and discuss your painting needs to provide a free quote.