Benefits of gardening for mental health and well-being: the scientific proof

benefits of gardening for mental health - mid-life woman

In this post, I’m covering two important studies that reveal some truly powerful benefits of gardening for our mental health and physical well-being.

For experienced gardeners, this is the scientific evidence to prove what you’ve known about gardening all along. New and future gardeners – when you read this, you’ll have even more reason to take up the trowel and start planting.

The scoop on the first study

This fascinating research was conducted by scientists at the University of Tokyo and other universities in Japan and the UK. They wanted to find out if the anecdotal evidence about gardening being good for you was actually true.

To investigate, they dug deep (pun intended) into a range of past studies that compared people’s health before and after gardening activities. They looked at all sorts of mental and physical health factors like depression, anxiety, obesity, life satisfaction and more.

In total, they analysed 22 different scientific studies involving over 20,000 people from all sorts of backgrounds. This wasn’t just looking at a few anecdotal cases – it was a huge and thorough scientific examination. The scientists amongst you will recognise that this was a meta-analysis – a study of studies.

gardening - watering can

The dirt on the findings

So what did they discover, in particular about the physical and mental health benefits of gardening? The short version is that gardening is an outstanding way for us to improve our physical and mental health and happiness!

The scientists analyzed all the data using strong statistical methods to ensure the results weren’t just a fluke.

Their conclusion? Gardening is a powerful way to boosting both physical and mental health markers.

Compared to non-gardeners, people who gardened saw big health and well-being benefits. In particular, gardening has been shown to be associated with:

  • Reduced levels of depression and anxiety
  • Better moods and less anger/stress
  • Higher life satisfaction and quality of life
  • Increased physical activity levels
  • Improved cognitive function (i.e. a sharper brain!)
  • Lower rates of obesity and healthier body mass

What’s more, the benefits held true regardless of whether people gardened for just a few hours or over longer periods. Picking up the trowel for a quick gardening session still led to instant mood-boosting effects. But sticking with it over weeks and months meant longer-lasting health payoffs.

mid-life woman - benefits of gardening for mental health

Why is gardening good for our mental health and well-being?

So what makes digging around in the dirt so darn good for us? The researchers highlighted a few potential reasons:

1) Being in nature is incredibly restorative and calming for our minds and bodies. Gardening allows you to frequently immerse yourself in the great outdoors.

2) The physical movements involved in gardening activities provide solid exercise, keeping you active and fit.

3) Gardening, especially in community gardens, connects you with others in your local area. This social interaction is amazing for our mental health.

4) Growing your own food motivates you to eat a healthier, plant-rich diet full of homegrown fruits and veggies.

A second study on the benefits of gardening for mental health

These findings are supported by the second study. This one was supported by the Royal Horticultural Society and carried out by researchers from various institutions, including the University of Sheffield and the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK, and the University of Virginia in the USA

The study entitled “Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening” gathered data from 5,766 gardeners and 249 non-gardeners. It included questions about garden types, frequency of gardening, and individual perceptions of health and well-being.

mid-life woman - mental health benefits of gardening

The research came up with the following findings:

  • Health Benefits: Frequent gardening (at least 2-3 times a week) was associated with improvements in well-being, reduced perceived stress, and increased physical activity. Daily gardening correlated with the greatest perceived health benefits.
  • Barriers to Gardening: Health issues, particularly those related to back pain, arthritis, and joint pain, were noted as barriers that prevented people from gardening. But, despite these barriers, gardening was viewed as therapeutic, providing relaxation, stress relief, and physical exercise.

So there you have it. Gardening isn’t just a relaxing hobby – it’s a potential health gamechanger backed by science.

Every moment you spend outdoors with your hands in the soil is an investment in your physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

So it undoubtedly makes sense for us to make the most of this widely available, enjoyable, and effective way to boost our health. Your future, healthier self will thank you.

References

Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive medicine reports5, 92-99.

Chalmin-Pui, L., Griffiths, A., Roe, J., Heaton, T., & Cameron, R. (2021). Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening. Cities. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CITIES.2021.103118.

Love Dahlias?I've written the book on them

Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.

Join Us! Subscribe to the Gardening Step by Step NewsletterSign up below to receive the latest gardening tips and updates*

*by entering your details, you're agreeing to the gardeningstepbystep.com terms and conditions and privacy policy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Leave a Comment