New study shows how VR can change mood and relieve anxiety during blood donation

A recently published study by the Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Science has found that virtual reality (VR) can help a person’s mood change whenever they sit for donating blood. This finding was part of research conducted with the American Red Cross wherein 33 volunteers participated, who were analysed for different types of moods like anger, tension, fatigue, happiness and calmness.

‘Needle fear’ or ‘needle phobia’ usually results in avoiding required treatments among patients and hence majority of them are reluctant to donate blood. Studies have revealed fear of needles makes as much as 91% of people anxious, and as this causes real-life consequences, a review of research on fear of needle suggests “greater attention should be given to evidence-based approaches to alleviate fear during injections”.

The participants were provided with an Oculus Go headset with Healium software in which they witnessed a four minute VR guided experience that encouraged them to use their internal feeling state – positivity – to transform a VR landscape. The experience starts in a somewhat bleak setting with a large tree covered in graffiti. The area surrounding the tree is barren with litter scattered all around. As the experience progresses, the users are instructed through engaging in feelings of positivity and gratitude that eventually changes the tree and the surrounding environment into a clean and lush landscape.

In April, Health Education England piloted a VR system across various National Health Service sites, in partnership with Oxford Medical Simulation, to help doctors train for medical emergencies among people with type-1 diabetes. In July, researchers at the University of Cambridge found VR could help identify Alzheimer’s symptoms with more precision than the ‘gold standard’ cognitive testing.

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