With over thirty five million patients annually admitted to hospitals across the United States , it is no wonder why we view them as sanctuaries of healing and restoration. Hospitals are where mothers deliver their precious babies, where cancer patients, against all odds, win their precarious battles, where miracles undoubtedly happen. To us, hospitals are the foundation of life, a place we can turn to in times of sickness and need. Yet, despite all that, there is a darker side of hospital life that we as a country still need to address: rising depression in hospital patients.
How ironic that the very institution dedicated to healing also causes depression to fester in its facilities. As such, duration of hospitals stays can create negative mental symptoms such as depression and anxiety in patients. A study done by Cedars-Sinai, a reputable medical center in Los Angeles, showed that up to thirty three percent of hospital patients who were psychologically sound when admitted displayed symptoms of depression post hospitalization.
In recent years, levels of depression and anxiety rates stemming from hospital stays have increased dramatically, creating detrimental effects on psychological health and well-being. In some cases, this depression eventually went on to cause physical harm to the patients. As depressed patients are less likely to take medication and have less motivation to get better, they increase their risk of readmission as well as delay recovery. Overall, depression puts an unhealthy amount of physical and mental strain on patients. Thus, we must ask ourselves: what is being done about it?
An overwhelming number of depressive patients, a continuous increase of depression rates, a lack of effort put into solving this problem. All these factors equally contributed to the issue at hand. In the last few years, patient depression has exacerbated into something we can no longer ignore.
The most beneficial and scientifically proven solution to patient depression would be to allow more natural lighting into hospital rooms by adding windows or skylights. A single search on the internet yields multitudes of scientific articles on how natural sunlight improves productivity, physical health, and even mood. Sunlight exposure is proven to increase serotonin: higher serotonin levels correlate to lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, the changing of infrastructure to include windows in hospitals would cost the federal government and private companies too much money, making this a less than viable solution for buildings that already exist. However, this does not mean we cannot do anything to help the problem at hand. Instead, we should focus our attention and efforts on the small yet impactful solutions that even an average citizen can take part in.
When imagining solutions to this issue, one’s mind will often first jump to elaborate schemes that are costly and not feasible such as the example mentioned previously. We often overlook smaller, more financially effective methods in favor of impossible to achieve panaceas. What we don’t realize is that these small actions can add up to effect positive change.
One example is the common practice of gifting “get well” goods like flowers and candy. Be it giving a bouquet of red roses or a box of Belgium chocolates, the presence of any gifts is proven to have positive mental impact on the human mind. We are influenced not by the gifts themselves but by the idea of receiving the gift. Getting sincere presents increases our sense of self-esteem, making us feel better about ourselves. In turn, higher self-esteem correlates to a lower risk of being diagnosed with depression. Gifting presents, no matter the shapes or sizes, becomes a potential way to help partially solve depression in hospital.
Flowers, in particular, come with a plethora of benefits. A study in 2009 done by Dr. Richard Mattson, a professor of neurology at Yale, proved that patients with flowers in their rooms during their hospital stay showed more positivity about recovery as well as signs of reduced stress. In addition, the presence of flowers also improves physical factors of the human body. Among other things, they increase heart rate variability (HRV) , a direct physiological indicator of depression: the higher the HRV in a person, the less depressed and anxious he or she is. From multiple scientific studies, flowers are shown to be a cheap yet viable solution for depression and anxiety, going to show that the solutions we look for don’t always have to be flashy and bold to be effective.
As a relatively inexpensive item to procure, flowers are a viable solution to the increasing depression and anxiety rates hospital patients are experiencing. While they are not often used as treatment by medical professionals, enough scientific evidence exists to show that we can consider flowers a legitimate way to help fix this injustice. Hopefully by exploring this method, we will be able to spread a relatively inexpensive preventative solution to depression and anxiety across the United States.
Be it using a previously mentioned solution or a brand new idea, we need to find a way to significantly reduce the amount of depressive patients in hospitals. No solution will ever be perfect, but putting the effort into helping this problem will make a change, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Through our efforts, hopefully we can turn hospitals into the true sanctuaries they were meant to be.