Gardening can help improve consumers' mental health, study finds

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Experts say even novice gardeners can reap wellness benefits

Recent studies have highlighted the ways that activities like traveling and cooking can benefit consumers’ mental health. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida may have consumers adding gardening to that list. 

According to the findings, working with plants can help improve overall mental health and wellness – even for beginner gardeners. 

“Past studies have shown that gardening can help improve the mental health of people who have existing medical conditions or challenges,” said researcher Charles Guy. “Our study shows that healthy people can also experience a boost in mental well-being through gardening.” 

Benefits of gardening

For the study, the researchers had 32 women between the ages of 26 and 49 complete different activities for two months. Half of the women went to gardening classes and the other half went to art classes two times per week. When the study began, none of the women were using tobacco or drugs, had chronic health conditions, or were taking medication for anxiety or depression. At the end of the study, the women completed tests that assessed their mental health. 

Ultimately, the women who were gardening throughout the study showed fewer anxiety-related symptoms than the women who took the art classes. While both groups showed similar mental health progress, the team noted that gardeners were less likely to report feeling anxious than those in the art class. All of the study participants reported fewer depression symptoms, lower stress levels, and better overall moods. 

“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,” said Guy. 

The researchers speculate that there’s a link between humans and plants that may be the cause of this mental health boost. Plants serve as a connection to food and survival. Although this attachment may exist subconsciously in our minds, the team says it can still positively contribute to our mental health.

“Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health,” Guy said. “We believe this research shows promise for mental well-being, plants in health care, and in public health. It would be great to see other researchers use our work as a basis for those kinds of studies.” 

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