Emotional well-being whereas residence gardening much like different in style actions, examine finds


As citizens and city planners work to make cities more sustainable and livable by investing in outdoor spaces and recreational activities like biking and hiking, Princeton researchers have identified the usefulness of an activity largely overlooked by policy makers – home gardening.

The researchers found that across the study population, the level of emotional well-being or happiness reported while gardening was similar to what people reported while biking, walking, or eating a study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. Home gardening was the only one of the 15 activities studied for which women and low-income people reported greater emotional well-being than men and middle-income and high-income participants.

370 participants in total / 118 those who garden at home / 31% gardening / 19% cycling / 85% walking / At least once a week / Percent of participants who are active / * Top 5 activities by net affect score ( Net affect score is the average of positive emotions minus the average of negative emotions during an activity / (bar chart comparing leisure / recreation; eating out; cycling; gardening; walking / gardening is in the top 5 of 15 rated activities and statistically does not differ from cycling, walking and eating out

“This has implications for equity in food campaign planning, as people on lower incomes tend to have less access to healthy food options,” the author said Anu Ramaswami, Princeton’s Sanjay Swani ’87 Professor of India Studies, Professor of Civil and environmental engineering and the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). “Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, encourage physical activity, and promote emotional well-being, all of which can enhance these healthy behaviors.”

The benefits of gardening for happiness were similar across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban areas, said first author Graham Ambrose, a research specialist in the civil and environmental engineering department at Princeton. In addition, it made no difference whether people gardened alone or with others, and people who tended vegetable gardens reported higher average emotional well-being than people who worked in ornamental gardens.

Time expenditure per week / 1 hour 26 MIN.  / 30 MIN.  BIKE / 1 hour 41 MIN.  Walking / Average emotional score according to (bar chart): gardener type vegetables vs. ornamental plants / household income: low, medium, high / gender: male v.  Female

The results come from a study of 370 people in Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area, for which people used a cell phone app called Daynamica to report on their emotional well-being while participating in 15 daily activities. The app was developed by the co-author of the study Yingling fan, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Minnesota who led a major study on emotional well-being as part of the National Science Foundation-funded study Network for sustainable healthy cities led by Ramaswami. Co-author Kirti Das, a postdoctoral researcher in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, was instrumental in recruiting participants from different communities and conducting the survey.

3 important findings: The classification of households is associated with a high level of emotional well-being, similar to cycling and hiking.  / Vegetable gardening is associated with greater emotional wellbeing than ornamental gardening.  / Gardening is the only activity where women and low-income participants report highest emotional well-being / Source:

Illustration by Mae-Yung Tang, Princeton Environmental Institute

As part of ongoing research on urban food systems in Ramaswami Laboratory for Sustainable Urban Infrastructure SystemsShe and Ambrose asked questions about the survey, which was specific to the kitchen garden in the household. While the social and environmental benefits of community gardens are a hot topic in urban research, the data available on gardening in individual households appears to be insufficient, Ambrose said.

“People know where gardeners work in the community, but it’s hard to know who’s gardening at home, which our group clearly identified,” said Ambrose. For example, the study’s authors found that 31% of participants worked in the home garden an average of 90 minutes per week, compared with 19% when cycling (average 30 minutes per week) and 85% when walking (average 30 minutes per week) for an hour and 40 minutes per week).

“A lot more people are gardening than we think, and it seems that this is associated with higher levels of happiness, similar to walking and cycling,” said Ramaswami. “In the movement to make cities more livable, gardening could make a big contribution to improving the quality of life.”

The researchers found that home gardening is one of the top five activities in terms of the importance of an activity to people while you get involved.

“The high level of informative value that respondents indicated while they were gardening could be linked to making their own food,” said Ambrose. “The increase in emotional well-being is comparable to other leisure activities that currently account for the lion’s share of infrastructure investments. These results suggest that we should pay just as much attention to household gardening when choosing future welfare projects to fund. ”

Some cities have piloted domestic horticulture pilot projects with promising results. For example a project by the Phipps Conservatory and the Botanical Garden in Pittsburgh provided materials and training for attendees to garden at home. In 2017, three years after the start of the project, 70% of the participants were still actively working in the garden.

The researchers in the current study plan to repeat this work among community gardeners to compare the emotional benefits of home gardens versus community gardens, Ramaswami said. These results will be useful in planning food campaigns in cities like Minneapolis, where Ramaswami is running an ongoing project with community members and organizations as well as the City of Minneapolis develop a food action plan.

The newspaper “Is gardening linked to greater happiness for city dwellers? The June 2020 issue of Landscape and Urban Planning published a dynamic assessment with multiple activities in the Twin Cities, USA region. This research was carried out as part of the Network for sustainable healthy cities, an NSF-funded Collaboration between universities, cities, governments, non-governmental organizations and industrial partners to jointly develop the science and practical knowledge necessary to achieve sustainable, healthy and livable cities.