Davies, G., Devereaux, M., Lennartsson, M., Schmultz, U. & Williams, S. (2014). The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing. Garden Organic and Sustain

The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing is a comprehensive publication which aggregates the literature regarding individual and societal benefits of gardening and food production, and can be downloaded from Google Scholar. This area is gaining popularity especially in urban settings. Rooftop and community gardens allow for exposure to nature as well as food production and provide a range of benefits for participants.

This review of the scientific literature set out to demonstrate the strength of evidence for the benefits of gardening and food growing for physical and mental health and wellbeing. It shows that: 

...to improve physical health, regular involvement in gardening or community food growing projects, or formal horticultural therapy, can:

  • Increase overall levels of physical activity and fitness, burn more calories and hence contribute to healthy weight management and reducing the risk of obesity. 
  • Increase healthy fruit and vegetable consumption, for adults that grow food, and among schoolchildren participating in food-growing activities at school – as well as improving young people’s attitudes to healthy eating.
  • Reduce physical pain, and help with rehabilitation or recovery from surgery or other medical interventions.
  • Help people cope with physically challenging circumstances, such as intensive cancer treatment or learning how to live with chronic conditions such as asthma or severe allergies.

...to improve mental health, for people with acute or persistent mental health problems, or especially difficult personal circumstances, regular involvement in gardening or community food-growing projects, or formal horticutural therapy, can:

  • Contribute to improved social interactions and community cohesion.
  • Reduce the occurrence of episodes of stress, and the severity of stress and associated depression.
  • Reduce reliance on medication, self-harming behaviour, and visits to psychiatric services, whilst also improving alertness, cognitive abilities and social skills.
  • Alleviate symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as agitation and aggressive behaviour, which can in turn improve circumstances for carers.
  • Provide productive manual activity and beneficial social interaction for people tackling drug and alcohol dependency.
  • Help people manage the distress associated with mentally challenging circumstances, such as making the end of life more peaceful, sociable and enjoyable for hospice patients. 

To access the full report on Google Scholar, please click here.