Many longtime gardeners will tell you that the garden is their happy place. New research suggests that many people may indeed reap mental health benefits from working with plants — even if they’ve never gardened before.
In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Florida scientists found that gardening activities lowered stress, anxiety and depression in healthy women who attended twice-weekly gardening classes. None of 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 Charles Guy, principal investigator on the study and a professor emeritus in the UF/IFAS environmental horticulture department.
The study was co-authored by an interdisciplinary team of researchers with the environmental horticulture department, the UF College of Medicine, the UF Center for Arts in Medicine and the UF Wilmot Botanical Gardens, which also hosted all the study treatment sessions.
Thirty-two women between the ages of 26 and 49 completed 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. 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 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,” Guy explained.
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