Gardening reduces depression among women as the therapeutic effects of horticultural treatment and art therapy have been the subject of a body of studies. It is supported by new findings that have been published in the journal PLOS One.
The researchers found that healthy women who took part in eight group sessions of gardening or art-making had meaningful increases in their mood. This also helped to reduce the number of depressive symptoms they experienced.
Humans have always had a close relationship with the plants and natural world around them. This connection has persisted throughout history. For millennia, humans have been dependent on plants for their own survival. Also, many researchers think that our connection to nature is the result of millions of years of evolutionary change.
But as urbanization continues to spread, there are fewer possibilities for those who live in cities to engage with the natural world. People can stay connected to nature by doing things like visiting public gardens or taking up gardening as a hobby.
There is speculation that gardening might provide therapeutic advantages. Horticultural therapy, for instance, is a method of treatment that improves patients’ mental health. This is done by having therapists accompany patients through various gardening tasks while also providing them with unique therapeutic plants.
The author of the study, Charles L. Guy, and his colleagues, intended to extend the research on the physical and mental health advantages of gardening. They do this by conducting a controlled experiment. This experiment compared a gardening intervention to another therapeutic activity, which was producing art.
A study shows gardening reduces depression among women
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not there would be a difference in the psychological benefits. That is in the two different types of treatments.
“There is an extensive history and literature of anecdotal endorsements that engage in gardening activities. These also include horticultural therapy or people-plant interactions, such as visiting gardens, which have therapeutic benefits.” Guy, an emeritus and courtesy professor of plant physiology and biochemistry at the University of Florida, explained. “These benefits are especially important for stress, feelings, anxiety, and mental health as a whole.”
The fact that maybe millions of gardeners have voiced such thoughts over extended periods of time makes this anecdotal testimony fundamentally distinct. This is different from most of the other stories people have told about things having healing powers.
What appears to be lacking at the current time is data from large-scale clinical studies. That is, studies that have been adequately organized and controlled. Also, studies that objectively quantify the treatment effects and outcomes. In addition, the dose levels of a well-defined and standardized treatment regimen(s).
We needed preliminary proof of treatment effects and outcomes with a clearly defined participant population. This should be in small-scale research before we go in the direction of justifying large-scale clinical trials.
The procedure that propelled the study
Random assignment was used to place a group of healthy women in their early thirties. They were placed into one of two different intervention groups. There were a total of 17 individuals who took part in the art intervention. There were 15 people who followed the indoor gardening intervention.
Both of these treatments were delivered in a group setting and consisted of eight sessions. It was done in such a way that each lasted one hour and was spaced out over a period of four weeks. The gardening lessons were guided by a gardener with a master’s degree who was also educated in therapeutic horticulture. The painting workshops were led by two professional artists.
All of the participants carried out assessments of their emotional states and levels of perceived stress. Also, levels of depression and anxiety both before and after the treatments were checked.
Additional evaluations of emotional states, stress, and depression were carried out at regular intervals during the duration of the intervention. In the last step, measurements of participants’ heart rates and blood pressure were taken at the beginning and conclusion of each session.
According to the findings as a whole, the therapies appeared to have comparable positive effects on mental health. Following the treatments, participants in both the art and gardening groups reported improvements in their mood. Also, with decreased levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression.
There was some indication that the gardening group experienced slightly stronger benefits than the other groups. This is because they showed a decrease in the trait and state subscales of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Adults.
The data did not disclose any substantial changes in blood pressure or heart rate, but the researchers did discover good tendencies for the gardening group. This is important to highlight.
The result (Gardening reduces depression among women)
According to the researchers, “the results show that engaging in hobbies such as gardening or art-making as leisure interests may have mental health advantages. It may perhaps strengthen general mental health wellness.” Guy says, “We need to do more research to learn more about how large-scale and widespread gardening might help people’s mental and physical health.”
The findings also demonstrated dose effects for both therapies, with the participants’ mental health ratings showing a general upward trend with each session. The authors of the research address a few different potential reasons for this dose impact.
One possible explanation is that, during the course of the intervention, participants became more familiar with one another. This contributed to an increase in the level of group cohesiveness. This, in turn, may have led to participants’ experiencing greater advantages.
Alternately, it’s possible that the participants’ self-efficacy grew as the number of sessions did, or that their emotional attachment to the plants grew as they continued to care for them.
Guy and his colleagues write that “when taken together, group-based gardening or art-making can produce quantitatively demonstrable increases in healthy women’s psychological health status.” This could mean that the public’s overall health could benefit in a big way.
Limitations of the study
Due to the study’s limitations, like the fact that it only looked at healthy women to begin with and had a small sample size, the results cannot be extrapolated to apply to men or a larger group of women.
Also, there was no control group of people who did nothing to use as a standard against which the gardening and art groups could be judged.
Guy said, “There are caveats to our study that were built into the way the experiment was set up and that affect the results.”
“First and foremost, it’s a small study that needs to be confirmed and validated by follow-up large-scale studies. Second, our study population was healthy women ages 26–49. ”
“Future studies will need to focus on a general population, and then they will need to focus on a variety of specific clinical populations to see which clinical populations show the strongest association.”