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Changes in emotions and perceived stress following time spent in an artistically designed multisensory environment
  1. Bliss Cavanagh,
  2. Kirsti Haracz,
  3. Miranda Lawry,
  4. Kylie Wales,
  5. Carole James
  1. School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Bliss Cavanagh, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia; Bliss.Cavanagh{at}


Self-management strategies that enhance positive emotions are considered most effective to cope with stress and maintain good mental health and well-being. An artistically designed multisensory environment, The Sensory-Art Space (SAS), was installed in a university in NSW Australia as a new self-management intervention. The design of the SAS was informed by evidence regarding the benefits of viewing art, experiencing nature and accessing sensory rooms.

A pilot pre–post intervention study measured changes in affect and perceived stress in 224 participants who spent time in the SAS. Descriptive statistics were completed on the individual affective states, and paired sample t-tests were used to determine changes in Positive and Negative Affect (PANAS-X) and perceived stress (Visual Analogue Scale).

The Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed that negative affect reduced, z=−10.23 (p<0.001), and positiveaffect increased, z=−2.57 (p=0.01), following spending time in the SAS. In addition, stress levels reduced after time spent in the SAS, z=−11.29 (p<0.0001).

Self-management benefits were found following time in the SAS and future implications for public health and well-being are discussed.

  • arts in health/arts and health
  • design
  • medical humanities
  • mental health care
  • public health

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Provenance and peer review statement has been added.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the research, design and writing of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement This research was done without patient involvement. Patients were not invited to comment on the study design and were not consulted to develop patient-relevant outcomes or interpret the results. Patients were not invited to contribute to the writing or editing of this document for readability or accuracy.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.