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Community Gardens Can Improve Your Mental Health, Study Shows

People who garden for at least 30 minutes a week experience better moods.

Image via Flickr user d-olwen-dee.

In news that may or may not come as a complete surprise to some people, gardening is good for you! Researchers in the U.K. have found that people who work in community gardens not only experience better physical health but enjoy improved mental health as well. A new study, published in the Journal of Public Health and authored by scientists at Westminster and Essex universities found that people who gardened for at least 30 minutes a week had lower body mass indexes (BMIs)—a measure of body fat—as well as higher levels of self-esteem and better moods overall. They also reported lower levels of tension and stress.

The Brits call them “allotment gardens”—small plots of land, generally located within congested urban areas, that are open for use to the public.

“With an increasing number of people residing in urban areas, a decline in the number of homes with gardens, and the increased risk for mental ill health associated with urban living, these findings are particularly important and suggest that allotment gardening might play an important role in promoting mental well-being in people residing in urban areas,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

They interviewed 269 gardeners and non-gardeners, and observed increased benefits for all those who gardened, regardless of class status or other factors. Because it takes place in a shared space, the act of gardening in a community plot facilitates social interactions among people who might otherwise never meet in formal settings—especially in cities, where it’s easy to become alienated from communal spaces. The gardens become important gathering places that contribute to the social health of the local area. Previous research studies have examined how community gardens can help initiate social change within urban neighborhoods.

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