The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing

This study reviews the extensive scientific literature showing the benefits of gardening and community food growing for both physical and mental health. It presents a compelling case for action by health professionals and the NHS; local authority planners and Government planning policy specialists to create, protect and promote gardening and community food growing.

01/04/2014
Growing Health
2014 - 46pp

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This study reviews current literature and highlights compelling case for commissioning of food growing by health service, with foreword by Professor Tim Lang.

We can all benefit from gardening and community food-growing projects. It is widely recognised that regular contact with plants, animals and the natural environment can improve our physical health and mental wellbeing.

For the large number of people in our society – children and adults – who live with challenging physical or mental health problems, gardening and community food growing can be especially beneficial. Such activities can relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses, prevent the development of some conditions, and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their well-being in the longer term.

But people in a mass urbanised society like Britain don’t have easy access to land. Green space and food growing spaces need to be created and protected in the environments where we live, to make it easy for people to participate in gardening, allotments, community food growing and horticultural therapy. This is a job for local authorities and their planning departments, as well as for land owners such as housing developers. Meanwhile, action already piloted by local GPs and health authorities to ‘prescribe’ gardening and food growing to those with physical or mental health conditions should be recognised and replicated throughout the NHS.

This study reviews the extensive scientific literature that exists, examining the benefits of gardening and community food growing for both physical and mental health. It presents a compelling case for action by health professionals and the NHS; local authority planners and Government planning policy specialists; and by communities themselves, to create the circumstances in which gardening and community food growing can thrive, for the benefit of everyone.


Report contents

Foreword by Professor Tim Lang

Summary highlights of the literature review

1. Introduction and approach

2. General benefits of community gardening

3. Social and therapeutic horticulture

3.1  Horticultural therapy
3.2  Therapeutic horticulture

4. Mental health and wellbeing   

4.1  Background
4.2  Benefits of gardening and food growing for mental health and wellbeing
4.3  Benefits of gardens and gardening  for stress and depression
4.4  Benefits for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

5. Obesity, healthy weight management and healthy eating

5.1  Background
5.2  Benefits for fruit and vegetable consumption
5.3  Benefits for physical activity
5.4  Benefits for Body mass index (BMI)

6. Helping people cope with other serious health problems

6.1 Cancer
6.2  Allergies, asthma and intolerances
6.3  HIV/AIDS

References

Appendix: Benefit matrix of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing   

 

Growing Health is a national project run by Garden Organic and Sustain, which is funded by the Tudor Trust, to see how community food growing can be routinely used by the health and social care services as a way of promoting health and wellbeing for a range of individuals and population groups.

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