In recent years, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety have become an increasing concern. Researchers have been exploring cost-effective and scalable methods to prevent and manage these disorders. Gardening has gained attention for its potential benefits, but limited research has been done on its mental health benefits.

In a cross-sectional study published in Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers investigated the associations between time spent gardening and indicators of mental well-being.

The study collected survey data from 4,919 middle-aged and older adults (aged 46-80 years) from Brisbane, Australia, of which 57% were women. The participants’ gardening time was divided into three categories:

  • no gardening,
  • 1 to 149 minutes, and
  • 150 or more minutes of gardening per week.

Mental well-being was measured using the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, and life satisfaction was rated using a single question. The researchers investigated whether these associations differed between participants in younger age group (63 years or younger) and those in older age group (over 64 years), using multilevel linear regression models to control for individual- and area-level confounders such as gender and neighbourhood disadvantage.

A recent study shows that gardening for just over two hours per week is associated with better mental wellbeing and life satisfaction, especially in older adults, and could be a cost-effective way to prevent and manage mental health disorders.

Of all participants, 37% reported no gardening, 42% reported gardening for 1-149 minutes per week, and 21% reported gardening for at least 150 minutes per week.

Participants who engaged in gardening for at least 150 minutes per week were more likely to report better mental wellbeing and life satisfaction than those who did not garden at all. The effects were stronger in participants aged 64 years and older. In other words, spending at least 2.5 hours per week gardening is associated with improved mental wellbeing and life satisfaction, especially in older adults.

Qualitative research, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews have previously identified the potential of gardening to improve health and wellbeing, including better sleep quality, less loneliness, and improved overall wellbeing; higher levels of happiness, self-esteem, and social cohesion; and lower stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Despite this evidence, gardening has been largely overlooked in public health policy.

Gardening is a leisurely activity that enables people to connect with nature, engage in physical exercise, and experience a sense of achievement. There is a need for further research to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which gardening improves mental wellbeing, as well as its long-term effects on mental health outcomes. This could help inform future initiatives aimed at improving mental health, particularly among older adults.