In a new study from the University of Florida, researchers proved that gardening can improve the mental well-being of even healthy people.
“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 well-being through gardening,” says Charles Guy, principal investigator of the study and a professor emeritus in the environmental horticulture department at the University of Florida.
The study looked at 32 women between the ages of 26 and 49 who had never gardened before. All of the participants were in good health and were screened for tobacco use, chronic health conditions, or prescriptions for depression and anxiety. As a control, half of the participants took art classes while the other half took gardening classes.
“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,” said Guy.
Participants completed rounds of anxiety, mood, stress, and depression screenings. The findings showed that while both art and gardening improved overall mood, gardening outperformed art.
“Larger-scale studies may reveal more about how gardening is correlated with changes in mental health,” Guy says. “We believe this research shows promise for mental well-being, plants in health care, and public health. It would be great to see other researchers use our work as a basis for those kinds of studies.”
Many of the participants, whether they were in the art or the gardening group, left the study with a newfound, relaxing passion that also happens to be good for the environment.