Swedish researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have found that well-designed medical buildings reduce the level of aggression of hospitalized patients with serious mental illnesses. The number of injections and restraint belt used in the newly built psychiatric department at Ostra Hospital was found to be significantly lower than it used to be.
Sad Statistics and Exclusion
Statistics show that the level of aggression and abuse in psychiatric hospitals is rising every year. Usually, patients engage in some form of violent conflict more than twice during their hospital stay. More than a third of such incidents result in injuries suffered by medical staff from their patients. In Sweden, about 85% of psychiatric workers have experienced physical violence at least once in their careers. So, what is the role of good architecture in these sad statistics and how can this help both patients and clinic staff?
First, it is common that psychiatric clinics or relevant hospital departments to be housed in old buildings dating back to the 19th century. In addition, the renovation cycle in critical wards, such as intensive care, is much shorter due to the need for new technologies. This also contributes to the fact that health ministers are in no hurry to take the necessary decisions. As a result, psychiatric clinics operate in old buildings for longer than traditional health care facilities. Patients and staff are left to work and live with outdated equipment.
Second, there is a significant problem of social exclusion among mental patients. It has been found to be directly dependent on the number of patients accommodated in one ward. While privacy is one of the most important factors in determining a desire to be socially integrated into the environment. The lack of privacy leads to an increased level of aggression of these patients and their reluctance to communicate with those around them. Many mental health facilities currently have only general wards.
The psychiatric department of Ostra Hospital in Sweden was opened in 2007. It contains many stress-reducing architectural solutions that are made following the advice of professionals. It was found that the number of uses of restraint belts decreased by 44% and the number of forced injections decreased by 21% after moving to new premises.
Aggression and violence in psychiatric clinics, as well as in the medical sector, reflect growing problems internationally. Reducing the level of aggression is very important not only for the safety of medical staff, but also for the well-being of patients themselves. Previous research has assessed the economic benefits of good architecture. Of course, a lot depends on the specific health care system, but even conservative estimates can be expected to pay for itself in five years.
Doctors believe that better architecture can help to improve the situation not only in the field of psychiatry, for example, but also in the ambulance sector. Well-designed buildings can significantly reduce the stress experienced. Forcing patients to wait in crowded, dormant, and poorly ventilated rooms with artificial light, in noisy environments increases the risk of stress and aggression. Appropriate architectural solutions could contribute to a better life for both patients and doctors.