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The Effects of Wood on Humans – Part 2 – Unveiling Its Physical and Psychological Effects on Indoor Environments

Continuing our exploration of the effects of wood on us, we pick up where we left off.

The impact of wood on humans has been studied in many countries. According to a report by Dr. Wallenius, research conducted in Norway, Japan, Canada, and Austria shows that wood has a positive effect on emotional well-being.

The positive effects of wood-rich indoor environments on our bodies have been scientifically proven through recent research. Moreover, these findings are being considered in the construction of some spaces. For instance, some hospitals are built with more wood and designed to receive natural light in order to create a therapeutic environment that aids in patient recovery. Let’s briefly review a few studies.

A study conducted in Japan measured the initial psychological reactions of 14 subjects in two rooms—one with wooden panel walls and the other with steel panel walls. The results showed that being in the room with wooden walls significantly lowered the subjects’ blood pressure, while steel panels had the opposite effect.

Another research study in Austria compared individuals who slept on a natural wood bed for three weeks with those who slept on an imitation wood bed. Those who slept on the wooden bed had lower heart rates compared to the others.

In a year-long study also conducted in Austria, the focus was on wood usage in classrooms. Two classrooms were prepared—one predominantly wood-based and the other with linoleum flooring. The results revealed significant differences between the two groups of students. In the wood-based classroom, students had lower heart rates and reduced stress related to communication with the teacher. Conversely, the other classroom showed an increase in both aspects. Similarly, research in classrooms entirely designed with wood showed that the morning stress measured by pulse rate decreased shortly after arriving at school and remained low throughout the day. In contrast, classrooms without wood exhibited a moderate level of stress throughout the day.

In summary, research clearly demonstrates that wood’s presence has positive effects; it reduces blood pressure, pulse rate, and stress compared to other materials.

The fact that wood has such a pronounced physical impact also makes it worth examining its psychological effects. In a research study in Japan, where the behaviors and health of 44 elderly individuals in a care facility were measured, those using wooden and plastic tables and chairs were observed. The results indicated that using wood enhanced communication among individuals, elevated emotional states, and positively influenced self-expression abilities.

Research in Canada shows that the color and texture of wood evoke feelings of “warmth,” “comfort,” and “relaxation” in individuals. Another study measures people’s reactions to wood, which are exceedingly positive. Participants generally prefer rooms with a high presence of wood details. The belief in wood contributing to a healthy environment is high, and rooms abundant in wood objects are described as “warm,” “comfortable,” “soothing,” “natural,” and “appealing.”

A study in New Zealand presented 69 adults with 10 photographs of modern workplaces. Five photos prominently featured wood, while the other five did not. Participants were asked which setting they would prefer to work in. The presence of wood significantly influenced initial impressions, with the majority of participants choosing the workplaces with more wood. Offices with a significant wood presence enhance creativity, energy, and comfort, while the absence of wood leads to the perception of a bland and uncomfortable environment.

The profound physical and psychological impact of wood’s presence is largely attributed to its influence on indoor air quality. Wooden products in a room help balance humidity, thereby improving air quality. This is due to wood’s ability to absorb or release moisture to achieve equilibrium with the surrounding air. Its exceptional balancing ability allows it to absorb excess moisture when the humidity is high and release previously captured moisture when the air is dry.

The capacity to balance humidity is particularly important in workplaces. Research shows that productivity drops by an average of 12% in workplaces where employees are dissatisfied with air quality.

The use of wood in hospitals not only provides an environment where patients can find comfort and tranquility, positively impacting their psychology and healing process, but also helps maintain optimal humidity levels—especially beneficial for patients with allergies or asthma.

The increasing awareness of wood’s benefits has led many architects to design schools and care centers that incorporate abundant wood. The award-winning ‘Dandenong Mental Health Care’ facility serves as an example. The designers used new or reclaimed wood to create a warm, striking, and non-formal environment.

Even before we had this wealth of scientific data about wood, we already held a positive perspective about it. Renowned for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere with its natural appearance, wood was considered aesthetically pleasing, tactilely satisfying, and most importantly, an environmentally friendly material. Wood was preferred even before its positive health effects were fully understood. However, this information empirically proves how essential wood’s presence is in every aspect of our lives.

Enhancing the allure of wood’s inherent benefits, the exquisite beauty and timeless elegance displayed by wooden office products such as monitor stands or penholders play a pivotal role in elevating not only the functional aspects but also the visual appeal of our workspaces. These meticulously crafted wooden items seamlessly harmonize with the natural world, infusing our surroundings with an inviting sense of warmth, unparalleled comfort, and an air of refined sophistication.

To read more about the impact of wood usage on nature, check out our article titled “The Use of Wood and its Impact on Nature.”

If you’re curious about why nature has a healing effect, you can read our article on the topic here.

Stay tuned for further explorations!

References

Anders, Q. N., & Bringslimark, T. (2010). Is Interior Wood Use Psychologically Beneficial? A Review Of Psychological Responses Toward Wood. Wood and Fiber Science, 42(2).

Berger, G., Katz, H., & Petutschnigg, A. J. (2006). What Consumers Feel And Prefer: Haptic Perception Of Various Wood Flooring Surfaces. Forest Products Journal, 56(10), 42-47.

Blomgren, G. W. (1965). The Psychological Image of Wood. Forest Products Journal, 15, 149-151.

Broman, N. O. (1995). Visual Impressions Of Features In Scots Pine Wood Surfaces: A Qualitative Study. Forest Products Journal, 45(3), 61-66.

Dodoo, A., Gustavsson, L., & Sathre, R. (2009). Carbon Implications of End-of-Life Management of Building Materials. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 53(5), 276-286.

Health Council of the Netherlands. (2004). Nature And Health. The Influence Of Nature On Social, Psychological And Physical Well-Being (Publication No. 2004/09).

Nakamura, M., & Kondo, T. (2007). Characterization Of Distribution Pattern Of Eye Fixation Pauses In Observation Of Knotty Wood Panel Images. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 26(2), 129-133.

Planet Ark. (2015). Wood, Housing, Health, Humanity. Planet Ark Report.

Rice, J. (2007). Solution for Wood – The psychological Impact of Wood, p. 28. Available at: http://www.solutionsforwood.ca/_docs/inthenews/K&B_SPRING07_p28.pdf

UNECE. (2009). Forest Products Annual Market Review. Retrieved from http://timber.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/publications/Final_FPAMR2009.pdf

Wood Psychology. (n.d.). Timber Design Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.timberdesignmag.com/articles/wood-psychology/

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