Published on 20th May 2020

In a study of 15 activities, gardening has been found to have better emotional benefits for women and people on low incomes.

The study, published in Landscape and Urban Planning, looked at 15 activities including walking, cycling and eating out. Researchers at Princeton University, USA, studied a group of 370 people who used an app called Daynamica to report their emotional wellbeing while engaged in any of these 15 activities.

It was found that across the study's population, the level of emotional wellbeing or happiness reported while gardening was similar to levels reported during cycling, walking or dining out. Home gardening was also the only activity out of the 15 studied for which women and people with low incomes reported higher emotional wellbeing than men and medium-to-high income participants, respectively.

The benefits of gardening on happiness were similar across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban areas, said first author Graham Ambrose, a research specialist in Princeton's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition, whether people gardened alone or with others made no difference, and people who kept vegetable gardens reported a higher level of average emotional wellbeing than people who worked in ornamental gardens.

The results, therefore, could be beneficial in improving the mental wellbeing of those isolating in urban areas during lockdown, or those on a lower income.

Corresponding author Anu Ramaswami said: "Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional wellbeing, which can reinforce this healthy behaviour."

The researchers also found that home gardening was among the top five activities in terms of how meaningful an activity felt to people while engaging in it.

"The high levels of meaningfulness that respondents reported while gardening might be associated with producing one's own food," Ambrose said. "The boost to emotional wellbeing is comparable to other leisure activities that currently get the lion's share of infrastructure investment. These finding suggest that, when choosing future wellbeing projects to fund, we should pay just as much attention to household gardening.”