Mon 12 Apr 21
Loneliness has been a key factor affecting many people’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, new research led by the University of Essex working with south-east Essex charity Trust Links, is exploring the impact of community gardening on feelings of loneliness among people with mental health problems.
Although the multiple health-promoting elements of community gardening are well known, such as improvements to wellbeing, connection with nature and physical activity, evidence of the impact of this activity on people with mental health problems is limited.
The nine-month research project, funded by the Loneliness & Social Isolation in Mental Health Research Network, will assess the impact of Trust Links’ Growing Together project, with members sharing their experiences by taking part in a series of surveys and focus groups, helping to demonstrate the potential of community gardens.
Lead researcher Dr Carly Wood, from the University’s School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, said: “Community gardening offers opportunities for engagement in a range of health-enhancing activities including social interaction, engagement with nature and physical activity; making it a valuable health resource. In this project we are going to explore the impact of community gardening on feelings of loneliness and wellbeing; whilst also seeking to identify how these types of activities can be made accessible to all.”
Trust Links offers therapeutic gardening, recovery classes, social activities and employment training to people living with mental health conditions and unpaid carers and supports around 1,500 people in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford each year.
Matt King, CEO of Trust Links, said: “Trust Links is delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Essex on this important research project. The research will provide a valuable insight into how Growing Together reduces isolation and loneliness and helps people build connections with other people, helping to improve mental health and wellbeing.
“Growing Together and similar community-based projects have never been more needed, as we emerge from COVID-19. Research such as this, which is being co-produced with people with lived experience of mental health challenges themselves, is essential to ensure we are capturing the impact of what is done and evidencing to government, the NHS and other funders how important it is to support, sustain and grow community projects for everyone’s wellbeing."