Soil and public health are intrinsically linked.
95% of our food comes from the soil, and the health of that soil directly contributes to the nutritional value of the food growing within it. Soil also contributes significantly to the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Spending time in nature improves physical and mental health and wellbeing. Gardening, walking or simply sitting in a green space provides a myriad of benefits including reduced stress, anxiety and negative thoughts, and these activities are now being prescribed by doctors to combat various different conditions, as well as factors linked to ill health such as loneliness and isolation.
Soil contains the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae that is absorbed through the skin of the fingers and palms when gardening, triggering a release of serotonin in the brain: the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin is a natural antidepressant and mood lifter; it also strengthens the immune system and provides a general sense of wellbeing.
Bacteria found in soil is also a primary source of antibiotics and other medicines, as further evidence of soils as a vital human life support system.
- The Royal Horticultural Society has launched a website page with a wealth of links and resources relating to ‘gardening for health and wellbeing.’
- The Royal Society for Public Health has done research and projects around the benefits of the environment for public health and wellbeing.
- The Garden Organic/Sustain Growing Health project provides a wealth of resources on the routine use of community food growing by health & social care services to promote health & wellbeing
- There is more evidence from Sustain on the links between soil and health here.
- Natural England’s 2017-18 Monitoring Engagement with the Natural Environment Children’s Report concluded that spending time in nature clearly improves children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
- The Oxford Textbook of Nature & Public Health provides a comprehensive overview of the role of nature in improving public health.
- A 2019 study published in Nature reveals that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.
- uksoils, the community hub for all things soil contains an array of resources to inspire and learn more about gardening and growing food.