Objective: Natural elements in the built healthcare environment have shown to hold potential stress-reducing properties. In order to shed light on the underlying mechanism of stress-reducing effects of nature, the present study investigates whether the stress-reducing effects of indoor plants occur because such an environment is perceived as being more attractive.
Method: A single-factor between-subjects experimental design (nature: indoor plants vs. no plants) was used in which participants (n=77) were presented with a scenario describing hospitalization with a possible legionella diagnosis. The study was conducted from March to May 2007 in the Netherlands. Subsequently, they were exposed to a photo of a hospital room. In this room were either indoor plants, or there was a painting of an urban environment on the wall. Afterwards, perceived stress and the perceived attractiveness of the hospital room were measured.
Results: Participants exposed to the hospital room with indoor plants reported less stress than those in the control condition. Mediation analysis confirmed that indoor plants in a hospital room reduce feelings of stress through the perceived attractiveness of the room.
Conclusion: This study confirms the stress-reducing properties of natural elements in the built healthcare environment. It also sheds light on the underlying mechanism causing this stress-reduction.