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Greenhouse work could improve wellbeing, study suggests

An individual who gets to work in a greenhouse could enjoy greater wellbeing than their city-dwelling counterparts who do not have the same surroundings, according to the findings of a new report.

The research has been published in the academic journal Psychological Science – and it was carried out by Dr Mathew White, who works at the European Centre for Environment & Human Health of the University of Exeter’s Medical School in the UK county of Cornwall.

Dr Ian Alcock, Dr Benedict Wheeler and Professor Michael Depledge – also of the University of Exeter Medical School – all co-authored the report. Data was analysed from a national survey that followed 10,000 individuals in UK households between 1991 and 2008.

Individuals who live in greener areas reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction – and this remained true even when factors such as income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type were all taken into account.

This is far from the first time garden work has been linked to personal health benefits – as nutritionist Jane Clarke recently told UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph that growing vegetables can do so too.

She explained that by growing plants like this, the gardener can be forming part of a healthy and balanced diet. The expert went so far as to suggest that certain vegetables even have anti-carcinogenic properties.

“Carrots and beetroot are high in beta-carotene which has been proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers,” Ms Clarke commented.

Dr White and his team found that the benefits of simply being in a green area can be enough to have a very positive psychological impact on a person over time. He explained that plenty of access to such areas – particularly in an urban area – can be roughly the equivalent of a third of the positive impact associated with being happily married.

“These kinds of comparisons are important for policymakers when trying to decide how to invest scarce public resources, such as for park development or upkeep and figuring out what ‘bang’ they’ll get for their buck.

“This research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects that urbanization and city planning can have on population health and wellbeing.”

Although previous studies have made similar connections, they were not able to rule out the possibility of those with higher levels of wellbeing being more likely to move to greener areas.