Ambient Scent as a Positive Distraction in Long-Term Care Units: Theory of Supportive Design

Suyeon Bae, Abimbola O. Asojo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Aim: This study was designed to explore the associations between an ambient scent environment and residents’ wellness in long-term care facilities. Background: The number of older adults living in an institutional setting has been steadily but slowly increasing. Because of a higher chance of having psychological disorders among people living in institutional settings than people living in noninstitutional settings, providing a supportive institutional setting is critical to enhance their wellness. The theory of supportive design suggests healthcare facilities can lower people’s stress levels via three conditions (i.e., perceived control, social support, and positive distractions). Method: A single-blind and placebo-randomized controlled study investigated the impacts of ambient scent environment, as a positive distraction, on residents’ depression levels. The recruited residents (N = 58) were randomly assigned into either the intervention group, which received a 1% dilution of lavender scent for 2 weeks nearby their bedside or the placebo group, which received a nonscent for 2 weeks. Results: Their depression levels were measured by the Geriatric Depression Scale. Based on the t tests, both intervention and placebo groups had improvement in depression, indicating a placebo effect of lavender scent. Further regression analyses explored the interaction effects of built environments (e.g., building, distance to a ventilation system, and square footage). However, no statistically significant impact of the built environment was found. Conclusion: Despite a placebo effect of ambient scent environment and nonsignificant built environment on depression, this study has valuable implications of being a positive distraction during the healing process as developed by the Theory of Supportive design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Environments Research and Design Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

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© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Theory of Supportive Design
  • ambient environment
  • healthcare environment; depression
  • long-term care units
  • positive distraction


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