Improving Outcomes in Healthcare with the Color Green

By Kurt Johnson Photography • March 11, 2024

Green is a color you probably associate with the outdoors.  Green grass, leaves, flower stems, trees, vegetables, landscapes. You’re probably starting to feel the warmth of the sun on your back just thinking about them.  Feels nice, right?

That’s what many healthcare facilities are realizing too.  Improving outcomes in healthcare with the color green is an easy solution within reach for all healthcare environments.  It’s a solution that’s backed by research. And it gets results. 

There are lots of colors in nature, so you might think, wouldn’t they all have the same effect?  Blue, for example, is a color that’s been shown to promote restoration according to frequently referenced research by Roger Ulrich and Laura Gilpin.

And yellow is the most noticeable color on the spectrum.  But the unique thing about the color green is the way we recognize its intricacies far beyond other colors.

In their book, The Secret Therapy of Trees, authors Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri describe our unique connection to green:

“Yet there is a consensus (and study results) that green is the color for which humans can distinguish the greatest number of shades. The difference is significant: for green it’s about 100 hues, while for other colors, including composite colors, it’s only a few dozen. This phenomenon has evolutionary origins.”

As Mencagli and Nieri explain, improving outcomes in healthcare with the color green starts with a biophilic connection.

Our connection to nature is deep.  Biological.  Something that causes a reaction in our brains and bodies without us even knowing. And that’s powerful stuff when it comes to healthcare environments, where the goal is to reduce stress and promote healing.


Art featuring green spaces brings the comfort of nature into built environments, adding a sense of ease and familiarity to patients confined indoors due to illness or medical treatments. Green creates a tranquil atmosphere that aids the healing process.

Exposure to nature, even in the form of art, has been linked to improved overall well-being. Patients experience faster recovery times, reduced anxiety, and a better sense of comfort when surrounded by images of greenery (Ulrich 1993, 1999, 2008).

“Our connection to nature is deeply rooted in the history of our evolution. And yet, we have less contact with green space now than ever, and our stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high . . ..” – Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri, The Secret Therapy of Trees

Improving outcomes in healthcare with the color green means understanding the calming effect green spaces have on people – patients, visitors, and healthcare staff.  The color green has a restful effect on the eyes and promotes relaxation – something that’s a high priority for hospitals and clinics where patients may be experiencing stress or discomfort.

Viewing lush green landscapes can elevate moods and contribute to positive emotional states. This makes sense considering green is associated with growth, vitality, and renewal.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of hope you feel in springtime seeing the first spring blooms as they emerge from the soil after winter.  In healthcare environments, this symbolism is powerful for patients trying to work their way back to wellness after injury or illness.

Katie Benak, of OrthoNebraska, explained that she chose KJP’s nature photographs for several of OrthoNebraska’s orthopedic clinics because the images represent “getting back to movement and what you love,” which is a continuous motivator for patients recovering from injuries.

A message from a patient receiving cancer treatment at an Allina hospital in Minnesota where our nature images were installed spoke of a similar sentiment:

“I really love it when a healing space has bright light and great art and thoughtful design. I think it reminds us patients of all the beauty in the world we want to stick around for.” – Liv L.

We can’t think of a better reason for incorporating the color green in healthcare environments.

Positive distractions are another way of improving outcomes in healthcare with the color green. Artwork depicting green spaces distracts patients from medical procedures and discomfort. Patients find solace in focusing on the artwork, leading to increased engagement and a sense of normalcy.

Hospital environments can be sterile and clinical, and nature photographs, especially those with the color green, provide a visually pleasing distraction that eases fears and even the perception of pain.

Some research suggests that exposure to green environments may enhance cognitive function, including attention and concentration. In healthcare settings where mental acuity is important for both patients and staff, this research is meaningful.

According to an article by Psychology Today, “Studies have shown that seeing the color green is linked to enhanced creative thinking.”

More than any single reason listed above, it’s the combination of all of these healing benefits that makes a compelling case for improving outcomes in healthcare with the color green.  Incorporating nature images of green spaces into healthcare environments is a simple yet effective way to improve outcomes for the entire care team, creating an interior that truly heals.

Categories: Color, Healing, Healthcare, Research

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