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The science behind using art to reduce stress and increase creativity

Detail from a work in progress

“As ten-thousand studies have shown, when you are chronically stressed, you’re less able to be at your best. Particularly when you’re talking about a knowledge economy which really places a high premium on creativity.

Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

Stress reduction is a huge part of Health and Safety research and legislation, plays a significant role in management training and literature, and even has an economic impact. Consider these findings from both the EU and the US:

Studies suggest that stress is a factor in between 50% and 60% of all lost working days. This represents a huge cost in terms of both human distress and impaired economic performance. – Jukka Takala, Director, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

According to one survey, 80% of employees reported feeling stressed at work sometimes and 60% of absenteeism was associated with stress. The American Institute of Stress

One simple action to help diminish stress is to consider the artwork in your workspace.

Sound too good to be true? A 2008 study concluded that:

participants experienced less state anger when there were art posters (of any type) in the office setting than when there were no art posters at all; people tend to be less stressed in offices with art posters – Kweon, Byoung-Suk et al.
“Anger and Stress: The Role of Landscape Posters in an Office Setting.” Environment and Behavior. 40, 3 (May 2008): 355–381. 

We can draw several significant conclusions from this:

  • The objects we place in a space have an impact on those who use that space
  • We need to give consideration to those objects (consider doing an art audit)
  • stress diminishes productivity, creativity, and affects the bottom line
  • Art is a low-cost, aesthetic, and flexible contribution to diminishing workplace stress