A randomized controlled trial of Golden Ratio, Feng Shui, and Evidence Based Design in healthcare

Emma Zijlstra, Bart van der Zwaag, Sabine Kullak, Ab Rogers, Dean Walker, Sjoukje van Dellen, Mark P. Mobach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In a global effort to design better hospital buildings for people and organizations, some design principles are still surrounded by great mystery. The aim of this online study was to compare anxiety in an existing single-bed inpatient hospital room with three redesigns of this room in accordance with the principles of Golden Ratio, Feng Shui, and Evidence-Based Design.

In this online multi-arm parallel-group randomized trial participants were randomly assigned (1:1:1:1) to one of four conditions, namely Golden Ratio condition, Feng Shui condition, Evidence-Based Design condition, or the control condition. The primary outcomes were anxiety, sense of control, social support, positive distraction, and pleasantness of the room.

Between June 24, 2022, and August 22, 2022, 558 individuals were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions, 137 participants to the control condition, 138 participants to the Golden Ratio condition, 140 participants to the Feng Shui condition, and 143 participants to the Evidence-Based Design condition. Compared with baseline, participants assigned to the Evidence-Based Design condition experienced less anxiety (mean difference -1.35, 95% CI -2.15 to -0.55, Cohen’s d = 0.40, p < 0.001). Results also showed a significant indirect effect of the Feng Shui condition on anxiety through the pleasantness of the room (B = -0.85, CI = -1.29 to -0.45) and social support (B = -0.33, CI = -0.56 to -0.13). Pleasantness of the room and social support were mediators of change in anxiety in the Evidence-Based Design and Feng Shui conditions. In contrast, application of the design principle Golden Ratio showed no effect on anxiety and remains a myth.

To our knowledge, this is the first randomized controlled trial linking design principles directly to anxiety in hospital rooms. The findings of our study suggest that Feng Shui and Evidence-Based Design hospital rooms can mitigate anxiety by creating a pleasant looking hospital room that fosters access to social support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2024


  • hospital
  • patient
  • anxiety
  • feng shui
  • evidence-based design
  • golden ratio
  • healthcare design


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