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Home HortTechnology Community Gardening Supports Stress Reduction, Healthy Aging
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Community Gardening Supports Stress Reduction, Healthy AgingCARDIFF, WALES--There is growing evidence of the benefits of horticulture-related activities for people in later life. Studies have found higher physical function and significantly less pain in "active gardeners" when compared with non-gardeners, and have shown that gardeners aged 50 years or older report higher levels of physical activity, life satisfaction, and health when compared with non-gardeners of the same age. Research on residents of care institutions has also shown that people who cultivate house plants and spend time in gardens have improved health and well-being. 

A cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, presented a research report in HortTechology that adds another dimension to the link between gardening and healthy aging. The team devised a cross-sectional study that compared health status and stress levels of older adult "allotment gardeners" with the same measurement from participants of other popular British leisure pursuits. Author Jemma L. Hawkins explained that allotment gardens consist of a collection of plots where people garden individually but in close proximity to one another--similar to a community garden model.

The study participants completed physiological measures and psychometric scales of self-rated health, perceived stress, physical activity level, and perceived social support. One significant difference in perceived stress levels was observed between the activity groups: allotment gardeners reported significantly less perceived stress than participants of indoor exercise classes.

No significant differences were reported in levels of social support and physical activity, leading the researchers to postulate that allotment gardeners' lower stress levels resulted from their engagement with nature and psychological restoration. An interesting finding was that lower stress levels were observed in the allotment gardeners that lived in more deprived areas. "This might be explained by a greater benefit in getting away from the home environment, if the home environment is in a deprived area," the authors noted.

"These findings represent a step toward understanding the benefits of allotment gardening activity," Hawkins said. "Our results are intriguing in terms of health promotion in later life. In addition, further information about the benefits of gardening for healthy aging will be useful to the horticultural industry for promoting gardening activities." Hawkins added that the research team was recently funded by the Welsh government to monitor the heath and well-being of allotment gardeners in South Wales during the current growing season.

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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/21/5/577.abstract

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org


 

Original Article:

Allotment Gardening and Other Leisure Activities for Stress Reduction and Healthy Aging
Jemma L. Hawkins, Kathryn J. Thirlaway, Karianne Backx, and Deborah A. Clayton
HortTechnology 21:577–585. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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