There is increasing evidence that gardening provides substantial human health benefits. However, no formal statistical assessment has been conducted to test this assertion. Here, we present the results of a meta-analysis of research examining the effects of gardening, including horticultural therapy, on health. We performed a literature search to collect studies that compared health outcomes in control (before participating in gardening or non-gardeners) and treatment groups (after participating in gardening or gardeners) in January 2016. The mean difference in health outcomes between the two groups was calculated for each study, and then the weighted effect size determined both across all and sets of subgroup studies. Twenty-two case studies (published after 2001) were included in the meta-analysis, which comprised 76 comparisons between control and treatment groups. Most studies came from the United States, followed by Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Studies reported a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. Meta-analytic estimates showed a significant positive effect of gardening on the health outcomes both for all and sets of subgroup studies, whilst effect sizes differed among eight subgroups. Although Egger's test indicated the presence of publication bias, significant positive effects of gardening remained after adjusting for this using trim and fill analysis. This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health.
Keywords: Domestic gardens; Ecosystem services; Green exercise; Green infrastructure; Horticulture; Nature experiences; Preventive healthcare; Public health; Urban greenspace; Wellbeing.