Reduced stress and improved physical functional ability in elderly with mental health problems following a horticultural therapy program.
Complement Ther Med. 2018 Jun ;38:19-23. Epub 2018 Mar 28. PMID: 29857876
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to determine the effects of a plant cultivation-based horticultural therapy program for elderly people with mental health problems.
DESIGN: Pre- and post-test design with experimental and control groups.
SETTING: Twenty-eight elderly Korean people with mental health problems participated from April to June 2017 at a farm located in Suwon, South Korea.
INTERVENTIONS: The participants were randomly assigned to either the control (n = 14) or horticultural therapy group (n = 14); the latter participated in once-weekly sessions of a previously designed 10-session horticultural therapy program.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The pre-test occurred 1 week before starting the horticultural therapy program. The post-test was completed within 1 week after finishing the final program session. Cortisol levels were measured in saliva samples collected from both groups. The Senior Fitness Test was used to assess physical functional ability in both groups.
RESULTS: In the horticultural therapy group, the cortisol levels decreased significantly from before to after the horticultural therapy program, and the post-test scores for six subtests of the Senior Fitness Test improved significantly. No significant improvements were seen in either measure in the control group.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the potential ability of horticultural therapy to improve the stress levels and physical functional abilities of elderly people with mental health problems. In future studies, it would be interesting to verify the long-term effects of this horticultural therapy program and to compare its effects with regard to sex, age, and various mental symptoms.