Effect of visual art on patient anxiety and agitation in a mental health facility and implications for the business case

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2011 Jun;18(5):386-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2010.01682.x. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


There is a growing body of evidence on the impact of the environment on health and well-being. This study focuses on the impact of visual artworks on the well-being of psychiatric patients in a multi-purpose lounge of an acute care psychiatric unit. Well-being was measured by the rate of pro re nata (PRN) medication issued by nurses in response to visible signs of patient anxiety and agitation. Nurses were interviewed to get qualitative feedback on the patient response. Findings revealed that the ratio of PRN/patient census was significantly lower on the days when a realistic nature photograph was displayed, compared to the control condition (no art) and abstract art. Nurses reported that some patients displayed agitated behaviour in response to the abstract image. This study makes a case for the impact of visual art on mental well-being. The research findings were also translated into the time and money invested on PRN incidents, and annual cost savings of almost $US30,000 a year was projected. This research makes a case that simple environmental interventions like visual art can save the hospital costs of medication, and staff and pharmacy time, by providing a visual distraction that can alleviate anxiety and agitation in patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / economics
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / economics
  • Anxiety Disorders / nursing*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Art Therapy / economics
  • Art Therapy / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings* / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital* / economics
  • Psychomotor Agitation / economics
  • Psychomotor Agitation / nursing*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Social Environment*
  • Tranquilizing Agents / economics
  • Tranquilizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • United States


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Tranquilizing Agents