Using weighted blankets in an inpatient mental health hospital to decrease anxiety

J Integr Med. 2021 Mar;19(2):129-134. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.11.004. Epub 2020 Nov 28.


Objective: Patients who are involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility often experience anxiety or increased anxiety in response to being placed in the institutional environment. The weighted blanket introduced a proactive treatment option. The purpose of this study was to evaluate patients' anxiety symptoms before and after weighted blanket, compared to a group that did not use a weighted blanket to control anxiety.

Methods: This study was conducted in an inpatient mental health facility from June 10, 2019, through November 7, 2019, with psychiatric patients who were not actively psychotic. Participants were offered the choice of weighted or unweighted blankets for a 20-minute intervention. The treatment group was comprised of individuals who had opted to use a 14-pound weighted blanket, 20-pound weighted blanket or 5-pound weighted lap pad. Participants in the comparison group were active in a wider range of settings. Before application of the blankets, pulse rate was measured using a pulse oximeter, and anxiety was measured using the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory shortened form (STAI: Y-6). Both measures were taken again after the intervention. A two-way mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) was run to examine the interaction effects between time (pre/post) and group (comparison/weighted blanket). Simple main effects were then further examined for the comparison/weighted blanket groups using a repeated measures ANOVA. Within the weighted blanket group, additional two-way mixed ANOVA was run to determine if gender or blanket weight made a statistically significant difference.

Results: There was a statistically significant difference (P < 0.05) among those who used weighted blankets (n = 61) and those who did not (n = 61) based on the pre/post data for both the STAI: Y-6 inventory and the patients' pulse rates. The results of two-way ANOVA indicated a significant interaction effect between intervention time and group (P < 0.001). Repeated measures ANOVA indicated a change between pre/post for the weighted blanket group only, and showed significant reductions in both the STAI: Y-6 (P < 0.001) and pulse rates (P = 0.040). Within the weighted blanket group, additional two-way mixed ANOVA showed that neither gender nor blanket weight had significant difference for either the STAI: Y-6 or the pulse measures.

Conclusion: The use of weighted blankets is a safe and potentially effective way to help individuals in a psychiatric facility manage anxiety. This study found a statistically significant drop in anxiety for adults at an inpatient facility, as shown by the STAI: Y-6 scores and drop in pulse rates among patients using weighted blankets. This study suggests a possible alternative to medications, seclusion and physical restraints, which are not patient-centered or trauma-supported.

Keywords: Anxiety; Mental health; Weighted blanket.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Bedding and Linens
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*