Gardening Therapy Helps Women on Long-Term Sick Leave Return to Work

For women on long-term sick leave, gardening therapy combined with active job coaching can facilitate a return to work, according to a new study.

“A combination of garden therapy and coaching strengthened the participants’ physical and mental health, and led to the women reporting improved vitality and social capabilities. Therefore, we conclude that this model should be considered during rehabilitation of certain women on long-term sick leave,” says researcher Eva Lidén at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Women are at greater risk of becoming chronically ill and going on sick leave, which can have significantly negative consequences, both health-wise and economically. There has been very little research examining the challenges these women must face, and how these challenges can be addressed in rehabilitation. This lack of knowledge is problematic from an ethical, justice, and care perspective, says Lidén.

For the study, researchers combined two proven methods of rehabilitation: garden therapy (Green Rehab) and job coaching (Supported Employment).

An initial measure of the women’s experienced quality of life showed that the participants had a very low level compared to other women of the same age in the population. An even greater difference was found when researchers specifically measure mental and social factors. For example, when compared to a normal index value of 50, the women in the study averaged 19, a value, which according to Lidén is extremely low.

The research involved women between the ages of 21 and 62 that had received economic support from one up to 10 years, and whose physical and mental health were diagnosed as poor. The project was conducted at four so-called “Green Rehab Gardens” where physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers worked in different shifts.

During a time period of 14 weeks, for two to four half-days per week, the women worked with the rehabilitation staff on several projects, including mental exercises, reflective therapy, physical activities, and practical gardening.

Furthermore, at the beginning of the rehabilitation process, the participants met with a job coach who initiated and supported the women’s job searches for as long as needed. For some participants, this extra help continued after Green Rehab had ended.

The research paper, titled “Combining garden therapy and supported employment — a method for preparing women on long-term sick leave for working life” is published in the Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences.

Source: University of Gothenburg

Woman working in garden photo by shutterstock.