Gore and colleagues studied the effects of seeing art on anxiety among cancer patients. They report that they compared anxiety levels for “three groups (participants who observed an electronic selection of artwork with and without guided discussion, and a control group that did not engage in either dedicated art observation activity). . . . [average] anxiety scores were significantly lower among those who participated in guided art observation, compared to [the control group]. . . . The majority of participants who engaged in art observation [those in either group that saw the art] felt that the activity provided positive distraction (85.7%) and decreased boredom (79.6%), and many noted that it reduced feelings of anxiety (46.9%) and depression (24.5%).” Also, “independently viewing art was not significantly associated with lower anxiety scores compared to [the control group]. A prior study of a long-standing art installation in a similar patient setting found that artwork was associated with lower levels of anxiety at some, though not all, time points during an inpatient stay.” In the two art conditions, people looked at images on an i-Pad for 30 minutes; in the with-facilitator situation someone used open-ended questions to encourage participants to talk about the images shown, covering topics determined by the patient (for example what patients noticed in each piece, and related emotional responses and memories triggered). The different effects found for each art program may be linked to the fact that one involved more human interaction than the other.
Emily Gore, Susan Daiss, Jane Liesveld, and Christopher Mooney. 2022. “The Therapeutic Potential of Bedside Art Observation in Hematologic Cancer Inpatients: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study, Supportive Care in Cancer, vol. 30, pp. 3585-3592, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-021-06747-z