Green Care: How Volunteering on Farms May Help with Clinical Depression

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A new study being published in the June 2012 edition of Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals discusses an alternative therapy for depression. The article, entitled “Farm Animal-Assisted Intervention for People with Clinical Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” is an exploration of a treatment called “green care” or “care farming,” which uses nature to improve mental health and well-being.

A recent article by Caitlin Kight discussing the study describes how green care works: “Participants in green care programs are offered the opportunity to spend time volunteering on farms, where they learn new skills, interact with other workers, and come into contact with farm animals.” These types of experiences can improve a person’s mood by increasing their sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem.

The Norwegian researchers performed a 12-week intervention on 27 clinically depressed individuals, 16 of whom participated in green care therapies and 13 of whom received traditional therapy. The 16 participants in the green care group engaged in activities that maximized their contact with the farm animals, such as grooming, feeding, caring for calves, and milking.

The study did not find “significant differences in mental health between the green care and traditional therapy groups,” but after a follow up survey, it did reveal that the alternative therapy was slightly more beneficial in the long-term and helped a larger number of people. The sample size for this study was small and further research is needed to explore the effects of green care. 

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