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Health Care Environment

Supportive care and stimulating environments for health and well-being

Care environment research is aimed to investigate the surrounding environment’s importance for health and well-being. The environment aspect covers both the objectively visible milieu around us as well as the subjectively perceived environment, the psycho-social dimension, which can be difficult to define.

Objective aspects are measurable and comprise features such as the size of the room, whether it is light or dark, hot or cold and if there are views and nature. The psychosocial environment refers to the atmosphere and ambience in the room, the way it feels.

Individual perception 

The experience of the environment of a room is personal. Individual perceptual conditions such as sight, hearing and sense of touch has an impact on how we perceive and understand a room. Moreover, our different backgrounds, understanding and experience also play a role. The scents, sounds, materials and views are also perceived and valued differently and may influence, consciously or unconsciously, our experience of the environment as attractive, pleasant and welcoming, or the opposite. Therefore, the same environment can be perceived completely different by different people.

When we are vulnerable because of disability or disease, we are particularly dependant on an environment that can be easily interpreted and understood and which contributes to security, independence and well-being.

A person-centred approach is crucial in the planning and adaptation of health care facilities where individual preferences, desires and needs are met. To increase knowledge about how we can create environments that strengthen independence, self-esteem and well-being is an aim of the healthcare environment research.

Theoretical considerations

The starting point is the relationship between personal skills and the support or obstacles that the environment constitutes. The studies are designed to increase awareness of adaptation to each person’s unique skills and the outcomes regarding behaviour, utility and wellness. For instance; research could entail creating environments that stimulate mental capabilities, support daily activities and contribute to the experience of health and wellness.

A pioneer of this mindset was Powell Lawton who developed the model The ecological model of aging (1973). According to this model, an adaptation of the environment to meet individual needs may be expressed as well-being and independent behaviour. Another pioneer within the field is Roger Ulrich and his design theory of environmental strategies to reduce stress. 

This person-centred way of looking at the environment requires the consideration of both personal skills and various supporting or hindering aspects of the surroundings, in line with e.g. a Practice framework for person-centred care as described by McCormack and McCane (2006).

Research focus and methods

The health care environment research focuses on the experiences of patients, family, and employees. Furthermore, hospital-related injuries- psychosocial and physical- are investigated as they may be avoided as well as health economic factors that can be linked to the environment.

The studies include a life-world perspective and focus on settings for health care in both inpatient and outpatient care as well as care in the home and special needs housing. As the healthcare environment is a complex system, studies require a complex approach, involving both quantitative and qualitative methods in the form of questionnaires, register studies, interviews, observations and photo-voice.

As the field is under development, the studies also include methodological development of instruments.

Research areas

• The physical environment in psychiatric care
• Well-being and atmosphere in the home
• Care environment for frail elderly in hospitals related to patient safety
• The physical health quality of the environment related to the well-being of older people in residential care
• Will development of the premises and organisation lead to a person-centred approach in oncology care?
• Home as an arena for health care. Research project within the framework AIDAH Integrative Ways of residing: Health and Quality of residence.
• Development of safe care in the home by co-creating meetings between the frail elderly and caregivers in the home
• The physical environment’s impact on quality of care in paediatrics
• Childbirth - Environment - Security
• The impact of the physical environment in homes for youth with special needs

Professional forum 

Forum Vårdbyggnad is a meeting place for professionals who work with the physical environment in health care. The forum supports and informs about the development, research and education through conferences and seminars. 


Research group leader: 
Associate professor Helle Wijk, helle.wijk@fhs.gu.se



Scientific leader
Associate Professor Helle Wijk helle.wijk@gu.se

Professor emerita
Ingegerd Bergbom
Ella Danielsson

Marie Berg

Associate professors
Eva Lidén
Stefan Nilsson

Ingalill Koinberg
Helene Berglund
Sepideh Olausson

Doctoral students
Anastasia Silverglow
Anna Gyberg
Kajsa Nolbeck

Collaboration partners



Dalarna University

Page Manager: Karin Mossberg|Last update: 9/23/2016

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