How Does Your Garden Grow? Testing Horticultural Therapy’s Effects on Depression in Older Adults

A new study is combining the unique effectiveness of horticultural therapy with depression found in older adults. On its own, horticultural therapy has been widely used in non-pharmacological treatments with depression. However, its lack of replication has prevented it from being more well known among and extended to specific demographic groups, such as older adults. The researchers in this paper focused specifically on assessing the reliability of horticultural therapy as an interventional tool for older adults with depression by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis. 

Researchers looked at a total of 7,366 studies, focusing on those that included older adults, and in the end, found 698 older-adult participants who had depression. The researchers looked at specific aspects of the horticultural intervention that might be the mechanism for success, such as the environmental setting; what activity was specifically being done; and the duration of the intervention. The results were promising, but nuanced. Certain aspects of horticultural intervention are more beneficial for older adults with depression than others; depression reduction was more effective in care-providing settings (i.e., assisted living) than in community-dwelling settings. Activities that required the older adults to actually participate vs. just observe were more effective. And in terms of duration, those that were four to six weeks long were more optimal than those that went on for longer than eight weeks. 

Even with those conditional components of horticulture success as an interventional tool for treating depression in older adults, researchers conclude that it still plays an effective role in reducing depression amongst older adults. Researchers call on their peers to look at other outcomes that may be positively affected by this tool, such as quality of life or social function! 


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Source: Xu, M., Lu, S., Liu, J., & Xu, F. (2023). Effectiveness of horticultural therapy in aged people with depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Public Health, 11.  

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