I have been fascinated by the recent non-traditional means to improve patient recovery. Over the years, I have read about the benefits of natural sunlight, plants, water elements, rooms with a view of nature and even the color of the room and design of the bed. “As an animal lover, I have been intrigued by the “pet” therapy in which cats and small dogs are brought to patients to hold and pet,” says Todd Shupe, LSU’s former wood science professor who oversaw a testing lab seeking patent approvals for related products.
However, my curiosity was really piqued after reading a study, “Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments” by Sally Augustin and David Fell which was published in 2015. The goal of the report was to attempt to draw a link between the use of wood in the built environment and positive health outcomes. The researchers reported that “early evidence suggests that the human relationship with wood is similar to previously investigated responses of humans to other natural materials. According to Todd Shupe, wood is believed to b a biophilic material that reduces stress reactive when present. The biophilia hypothesis also called BET suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.”
The Augustin and Fell report reports that “the mind and body are looking for a connection with nature when it is absent the type of nature and the type of building are secondary. Wood is a natural building and finishing material and therein is the fit with using it more in healthcare settings.” The goal of any natural material in a health care setting is to reduce stress. I think people associate wood paneling and flooring with a natural, warm environment and feel better connected to nature. “In our modern society, there is something intrinsically attractive about simple inherent natural beauty,” says Todd Shupe. “This could be found in natural sunlight, puppies, and even wood. If I end up in a hospital room, please get me a room with a view of a park, knotty pine flooring, and a cute puppy to pet!” We all know that wood is good – now, we now that is good medicine.