Allotment holders have spoken of how their plots lift depression and improves their mental health.

Up to 5,000 people in Brighton and Hove are thought to regularly work on one of the 3,000 growing plots in the city.

In addition to growing fresh food to eat at home, a major survey to hundreds of allotment holders has shown how important being out in the open air improves their health.

The news will be welcomed by health chiefs, with the NHS estimating the wider economic cost of mental illness in England is £105 billion per year -  £2,000 for every person in the country.

In responding to the survey, one unnamed allotment holder said: “I live in a flat in one of the most polluted areas of town, there is constant noise and I have no outdoor space.

“When I was mentally ill last year my allotment helped me get back on track.

“I have always valued and enjoyed having the allotment but it really hit home how much I need it and value it when I was so poorly.”

A former plot holder added: “It's a place I could go and relax even if I was digging. I did not need to take any anti-depressants.

“Now I am back on 150 grams a day.”

The survey was carried out by Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation before Brighton and Hove City Council draws up a strategy into how plots are run.

From the 902 respondents, 92% of plot holders either agreed or strongly agreed that allotments improved their mental health or provided stress relief.

A similarly high number admitted the general exercise made them healthier.

Alan Phillips, chairman of the Brighton and Hove Allotment Federation, said: “The new strategy must make allotments stress free and ensure that more people who want to improve their mental health can enjoy allotments.”

Pete West, chairman of the council's environment committee, who set up a strategy into the importance of allotments, described it as “wonderful yet not entirely unexpected news”.

He added: “The council already works closely with partners to encourage the growth of community allotments and growing projects throughout the city.

“Now, with more evidence on our side we will be able to reach out and help more people across the city to a better life.”

The strategy is set to be published and discussed by councillors in spring.