How building features impact veterans with PTSD

August 10, 2020

The built environment, where someone lives (private) or works (public), influences a person's daily life and can help, or hinder, their mental health. This is especially true for those with mental health conditions such as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers in the Wm Michael Barnes '64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University are working to determine which elements of built environments affect veterans with PTSD the most, and how they can be altered to help veterans thrive.

"We have already established collaborations with veteran support groups to develop veteran-centered tools for monitoring and self-management of PTSD," said Dr. Farzan Sasangohar, assistant professor and principal investigator of the project. "Through interactions with hundreds of veterans diagnosed with PTSD, we realized the need to also investigate the context in which these tools are used and became interested in the design of built environments."

The researchers looked at three themes: architectural design features, interior design features and ambient features. As part of the project, researchers interviewed veterans with PTSD about their triggers in public and private spaces. From their interviews, the researchers categorized and provided suggestions for each theme area that would provide the greatest positive impact for veterans.

"Alarmingly, we learned there is a general gap in built environments' design guidelines for mental health habitants in general, and PTSD patients in particular, so we leveraged our wide network of veterans to study their preferences," Sasangohar said.

Architectural design features

Architectural design features are permanent features of a building or space that would be difficult or expensive to change after construction is completed, like the entrance and exit locations.

In the study, veterans identified six areas that made a difference toward their comfort:Interior design features

Interior design features are parts of a built environment that are easier to change and could be accommodated in spaces that are already built. Veterans preferred spaces with fewer pieces of furniture and walls that were painted in brighter, more vivid colors instead of muted colors.

Ambient design features

Ambient design features are the easiest features to change in a space and include lighting and air quality. Overall, veterans preferred natural light. Some said that poor light, including too much artificial lighting, could trigger stress. Air and sound quality was important also, including ventilation, odor and noise levels. Many veterans said that certain odors could trigger fear or bad memories and that loud, unexpected noises were particularly startling for them. They felt that soundproofing was important in spaces they visited or lived in.

What can be done?

While this research addressed an important gap in research and practice, the research team identified the need for more work to understand issues related to the design of built environments for those with PTSD. Further research should include a wide range of stakeholders including veterans, Veterans Affairs, architecture and housing regulatory bodies.

"We hope that this research contributes to the curriculum, codes and standards, regulatory documents, and general practice of designing built environments, including health care facilities, which are sensitive to the needs of veterans who are affected by PTSD and others with mental health conditions," Sasangohar said.
This research article, "Veteran-Centered Investigation of Architectural and Space Design Considerations for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)," is featured in the May issue of

Texas A&M University

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to