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Harvard Study Shows That Fresh Flowers Decrease Anxiety

Posted by Rick Canale on Mon, Oct 01, 2012

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CONTACT: (RICK CANALE,  617.524.4455)

Harvard Study Investigates the Home Ecology of Flowers Behavioral Research Concludes:Living with Flowers Strengthens Feelings of Compassion, and Decreases Anxiety and Worry


(BOSTON, MA)  With people’s desire for tranquility and stress relief stronger than ever, fresh research takes an insightful look at flowers and the important role they may play in our daily lives. A behavioral research study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, reveals that people feel more compassionate toward others, have less worry and anxiety, and feel less depressed when fresh cut flowers are present in the home. 

“Other research has proven that flowers make people happy when they receive them,” Etcoff says. “What we didn’t know is that spending a few days with flowers in the home can affect a wide variety of feelings.”

The Home Ecology of Flowers Study at Harvard uncovered three main findings:

  1. Flowers feed compassion. 

    Study participants who lived with fresh cut flowers for less than a week felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness for others.

  2. Flowers chase away anxieties, worries and the blues at home. 

    Overall, people in the study simply felt less negative after being around flowers at home for just a few days. 

    Participants most frequently placed flowers in their kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms, where they spend a lot of time at home. They reported wanting to see the blooms first thing in the morning. 

  3. Living with flowers can provide a boost of energy, happiness and enthusiasm at work. 

    Having flowers at home can have a positive carry-over impact on our mood at work, too. The study found that people were more likely to feel happier and have more enthusiasm and energy at work when flowers were in their home living environments.

“As a psychologist, I’m particularly intrigued to find that people who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feelings,” Etcoff says. “Our results suggest that flowers have a positive impact on our well being.”



Editor’s Note: For high-resolution floral photography, visit

The Home Ecology of Flowers Research Methodology

Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and her research team investigated the effects of flowers in the home environment on well being. Fifty-four people, ages 25-60, were studied using a series of self-report measures allowing the research team to know where the person was, with whom and what they were doing when they experienced an emotion, both when flowers were and were not present. Half of the participants received a “control” home decor item, other than flowers, to ensure study validity. After living with either flowers or the control intervention for approximately one week, participants rated their feelings during specific periods of the day, recording emotions during each episode. The research team also took photographs before and after flowers were delivered to determine any changes in use or appearance of the room. 

About Dr. Nancy Etcoff

 Dr. Nancy Etcoff is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard University Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative and a practicing psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry where she is the Director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well Being. At Harvard, she currently teaches a course entitled “The Science of Happiness.”

 Use these tips  to put this historic floral research into action immediately.

• Display flowers in common areas
such as your kitchen, dining and
family rooms to experience the
greatest mood-boosting effects.
• The kitchen table might be the best
place for flowers, because it’s
where people gather.
• Match a room’s décor with one of
the hottest flower trends —
monobotanic (arrangements of all
one type of flower) and
monochromatic (using all one color
palette, such as a range of pinks).
• Even just a few flowers in a bud vase
can perk up a room.
• For a contemporary look, group
several vases together holding just
one or two stems.
• For an easy, elegant table
decoration, set a series of crystal
vases on a fabric runner. Place fresh
flowers in each of the vases and
surround them with greenery.
• In the foyer, create a space to hang
your keys that also includes a
weekly vase of flowers. It will be
the last place you see on your way
out the door and the first you see
on your way back inside.
• An abundant arrangement of lilies,
gladiolus, hydrangea or any large
blooms creates an inviting
environment for an expansive
entryway or dining room.
• Choose soothing colors, like blues
and greens, to create a tranquil
feeling, or bright reds and oranges
for a sensual arrangement.
© 2007 SAF

Tags: SAF, Society of American Florists, Harvard Medical, Floral Studies

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