The study - Growing for Health: Community food growing – a natural part of the health service – was launched at a conference for health professionals and food growing project organisers which took place in London yesterday.
The authors of the report undertook a review of international scientific research demonstrating the benefits of gardening and community food growing for physical and mental wellbeing.
They are now calling on health professionals to put community food growing ‘on prescription’, for the many health benefits this would achieve.
It follows comments by the president of the Royal College of Physicians Sir Richard Thompson at the AIPH International Green City conference, also in London, on Tuesday where he also doctors should prescribe gardening, a "complementary therapy".
The conference was organised by charity Growing Health which lobbies GPs and local health services to demonstrate the benefits of community growing schemes.
Professor of food policy at the Centre for Food Policy at City University , Professor Tim Lang, who chaired the said: "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 serious conditions, reduce stress and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their own well-being in the longer term."
One project looked at in the report is Sydenham Gardens in South London, founded by local residents and a local GP to provide gardening, nature conservation and creative opportunities for local people. Patients are referred to the project through their GP or key worker.
Growing Health project officer Maria Devereaux said the study was "a call to action".
"Pioneering action, already piloted by local GPs and health authorities, to put gardening and food growing ‘on prescription’ should now be recognised and replicated throughout the NHS, and local authority planners should protect and create food growing spaces, for the benefit of everyone."