Gardening for Stress Relief

Have you ever wondered whether gardening can help with everyday stress?

Stress is a known risk factor for preventable chronic disease and plagues many of us living in a noisy, hectic urban environment.  During the 2013 gardening season, our research partner from Northwestern University, Sarah R. Taylor, worked with 75 women across 3 PGP gardens to learn more about how gardening affects health and well-being, including stress levels.  Results from her surveys and interviews suggest that community gardeners do experience stress relief over the course of the season, but Sarah also went a step further and collected hair samples.

(Yoga In The Garden with Bloom Yoga Studio – another way gardeners were reducing stress in 2013)

Why hair?  Believe it or not, hair contains a hormone called cortisol, which is a known biological marker for stress.  When you’re stressed, your body produces more of this hormone to help you get through a difficult day.  If you’re constantly stressed out, however, the hormone begins to have detrimental effects on your body. Gardening may be one way to reduce stress, and thus cortisol levels, over time. By measuring cortisol in hair, Sarah hopes to find biological evidence for the stress-reducing effects of gardening.

Sarah recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to send the hair samples she collected to a high-tech lab for analysis. We’re excited to see whether the results from the hair samples are consistent with the results from her surveys and interviews.

Stay tuned for more news about this study and other research projects happening right now in PGP gardens!