Digging, weeding and planting improve happiness and 'emotional wellbeing' as much as physical exercise or eating out, study by Princeton University finds. Naturally, this will come as no surprise to gardeners, but hopefully it will persuade non-gardeners to give it a go.
Gardening is 'good for the soul' according to scientists, who say it improves happiness and emotional wellbeing as much as cycling, walking or eating out.
The new study by Princeton University researchers found getting outdoors and gardening was particularly beneficial for women in low income households. While running or sports may provide more physical exertions, gardening works better as an emotional pick-me-up than other activities.
The research team say it becomes even more beneficial for those who grow their own vegetables than those who have manicured ornamental gardens.
The study of 370 volunteers in the US involved people reporting on their own levels of emotional wellbeing using an app while undertaking a range of activities.
The finding that vegetable gardening helps emotional wellbeing could be significant if used to encourage those with small gardens to grow food rather than flowers, especially as a way of sustaining densely populated areas, according to researchers.
The authors found gardening was good for improving happiness whether it was by people on their own or with relatives or in groups. Those who regularly tended to gardens were likely to spend more time doing so than those who took part in other activities, the authors found.
They also reported levels of happiness as high as other activities and higher in the case of women and low income households. Lead author, Anu Ramaswami, said it has implications in terms of equality of food planning as lower income families tend to have less access to healthy food options.
'Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional well-being, which can reinforce this healthy behaviour,' Ramaswami said.
'Many more people garden than we think and it appears that it associates with higher levels of happiness similar to walking and biking. In the movement to make cities more liveable, gardening might be a big part of improving quality-of-life.'
The benefits were the same across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban areas, according to co-author Graham Ambrose.