Study Says Gardening is Good for Your Mental Health
Researchers from Westminster and Essex Universities say that gardening is great for mental health as well as your physical health. Their study suggests that the activity improves both your mood and your self-esteem.
The research involved 269 participants – some gardeners and some non-gardeners. The participants were questioned about their mood, self-esteem and general health. Those who did some gardening were asked about the length of time they spend engaging in the activity, and were asked to describe their feelings before and after working in an allotment.
The results revealed that those who worked in allotments at least once a week had lower levels of fatigue, depression, tension and anger, as well as higher self-esteem. They showed that it took only as little as 30 minutes a week of gardening for people to reap these benefits.
“Participants who attend an allotment for a short period just once per week can experience a similar magnitude of improvements in self-esteem and mood as participants who attend more regularly for longer periods of time,” says Dr Carly Wood, a sports and exercise scientist at Essex University.
Researchers also noted that participants who engaged in gardening regularly tended to have a much healthier body weight. Nearly 70% of non-gardeners were overweight or obese, compared to 47% of gardeners.
Dr Wood believes that allotment gardening could play an important role in promoting both physical and mental well-being in people residing in urban areas. She says that public authorities should take steps to make allotment space more widely available in order to reduce the prevalence of mental health issues.
“This preventative approach could result in substantial savings to the UK economy, particularly in the treatment of health conditions such as mental illness, obesity, cardiovascular disease and loneliness,” she says. “Health organisations and policy makers should consider the potential of allotment gardening as a long-term tool for combatting ill-health. Local public authorities should seek to provide community allotment plots to allow residents to have regular opportunities to partake.”
Professor John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, says: “Because there are long waiting lists for allotments, we need a strategy that considers how we could make better use of neglected land that marks the transition from towns to cities. Given the cost to individuals and the economy of poor mental health, it makes sense from both a public health and economic perspective to prioritise mental wellbeing.”