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Life & Philosophy Psychology Travel

How Japan uses blue LED light panels on station platforms to prevent suicides

Tokyo runs 13 billion passenger trips each year, making its train stations some of the busiest in the world.

Using sound design and various other psychological nudges, rail stations are able to bring some order to the chaos. One of the most effective tactics has been its use of blue LED mood lighting to prevent suicide attempts.

Photo by Allan Richarz/City Lab

Writes Tokyo resident Allan Richarz for Citylab:

According to a study by researchers at the University of Tokyo published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, data analyzed over a 10-year period shows an 84 percent decline in the number of suicide attempts at stations where blue lights are installed.

Operating on the theory that exposure to blue light has a calming effect on one’s mood, rail stations in Japan began installing these LED panels as a suicide-prevention measure in 2009. They are strategically located at the ends of each platform—typically the most-isolated and least-trafficked area, and accordingly, the point from which most platform jumps occur. Some stations, such as Shin-Koiwa Station in Tokyo, bolster their LED regime with colored roof panels, allowing blue-tinted sunlight to filter down on to platforms.

Whether it comes to the iPhone or infrastructure, Richarz’s piece is yet another reminder of how everyday design can impact our lives.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of four books.

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