MORE than 2,000 people with mental health, addiction and other wellbeing issues have had their lives transformed through community gardening, according to an independent study.

The research was carried out by the University of Essex into the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership’s Sharing the Harvest project.

It found that after taking part in the initiative, which targeted vulnerable adults, progress had been made:

l 97 per cent of participants reported improved happiness, mood or wellbeing,

l 89 per cent reported improved physical health, and

l 90 per cent reported greater skills or confidence.

In addition, participants increased their fruit and vegetable intake by an average of 14 per cent and physical activity levels across the group increased between 10 per cent and 17 per cent.

Jess Crocker, senior manager of Sharing the Harvest, said: “These findings show the all-round benefits that outdoor-based therapeutic activities can bring. Nearly 100% of people said that their happiness increased as a result of taking part in Sharing the Harvest - that figure speaks for itself. The mental health benefits of gardening, and in particular growing your own food, now seem irrefutable.”

“Even more promising are all the other benefits the project brought about, such as improved diet and increased exercise. The people we work with are more likely to have poor physical health and face a range of life challenges, which makes these improvements even more important. Community gardening is quite clearly powerful medicine.”

Green exercise

The Sharing the Harvest project saw adults with learning disabilities and autism, or experience of mental health problems, homelessness or addiction issues, volunteering in more than 75 community gardens.