A new study from University of Florida has revealed that many people may indeed reap mental health benefits from working with plants even if they’ve never gardened before.
The study was published in the journal, ‘PLOS ONE’. The University of Florida scientists found that gardening activities lowered stress, anxiety, and depression in healthy women who attended gardening classes twice in a week. None of the study participants had gardened before.
“Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges. Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental wellbeing through gardening,” said Mr. Charles Guy, principal investigator of the study and a professor emeritus in the UF/IFAS environmental horticulture department.
32 women between the ages of 26 and 49 participated in the study. “All were in good health, which for this experiment meant screening for factors such as chronic health conditions, tobacco use and drug abuse, and having been prescribed medications for anxiety or depression,” as per the report.
Half of the participants were assigned to gardening sessions, while the other half were assigned to art-making sessions. Both groups met twice a week for a total of eight times. The art group served as a point of comparison with the gardening group.
“Both gardening and art activities involve learning, planning, creativity, and physical movement, and they are both used therapeutically in medical settings. This makes them more comparable, scientifically speaking, than, for example, gardening and bowling or gardening and reading,” Mr. Guy explained.
In the gardening sessions, participants learned how to compare and sow seeds, transplant different kinds of plants, and harvest and taste edible plants. Those in the art-making sessions learned techniques such as papermaking, printmaking, drawing, and collage.
Participants completed a series of assessments measuring anxiety, depression, stress, and mood. The researchers found that the gardening and art-making groups experienced similar improvements in mental health over time, with gardeners reporting slightly less anxiety than art makers.
According to the statement, “Given the relatively small number of participants and the length of the study, the researchers were still able to demonstrate evidence of what medical clinicians would call the dosage effects of gardening — that is, how much gardening someone has to do to see improvements in mental health.”
“Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health. We believe this research shows promise for mental well-being, plants in healthcare, and public health. It would be great to see other researchers use our work as a basis for those kinds of studies. At the end of the experiment, many of the participants were saying not just how much they enjoyed the sessions but also how they planned to keep gardening,” Mr. Guy concluded.