A new study published in the Journal of Public Health compared the self esteem, mood and general health of 136 allotment gardeners before and after a session in their allotment, as well as following 133 non-gardeners as a control group.
The study, by researchers from the Universities of Westminster and Essex, found that just 30 minutes in an allotment improves self esteem, mood and overall wellbeing. Benefits were felt across the board, regardless of socioeconomic status or other factors.
Amounts of time spent in the allotment that day or over the past week did not make a difference to these benefits - suggesting even a short stint of gardening has a strong effect on mental health. The study pointed out both mood and self-esteem are key indicators of wellbeing and long-term disease risk.
Researchers also found allotment gardeners had "significantly better self-esteem, total mood disturbance and general health, experiencing less depression and fatigue and more vigour". They also tended to have a lower Body Mass Index, with 47 per cent of gardeners being overweight compared to 70 per cent of non-gardeners.
Essex University sports and exercise scientist Dr Carly Wood commented: "Health organizations and policy makers should consider the potential of allotment gardening as a long-term tool for combatting ill-health. Local public authorities should seek to provide community allotment plots to allow residents to have regular opportunities to partake."
The National Allotment Society echoed the study's sentiments, saying: "This report affirms our view that allotments make a significant contribution to the health and well-being of citizens and we would argue that this should be acknowledged by councils in their Health and Well-being Policies and their allotment services be expanded and protected."