Loneliness and isolation

A key process that underpins STH is time spent in a positive environment. The skilled Practitioner will manage the amount and levels of social interaction between participants in the group and with themselves.

Research studies include:

  • ­A study using data from two STH projects, with 143 participants with mental health problems (43%), learning disabilities (39%), autism (7%) and other physical disabilities or cognitive impairments, analysed assessments made for most participants after most sessions (the sessions lasted 5.5 hours) at days 0, 30, 60, 90, 180 and 365. Scores for social interaction were significantly higher at day 90. This effect was most noticeable in those with a learning disability. [Sempik J, Rickhuss C, Beeston A, (2014). The Effects of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture on Aspects of Social Behaviour. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 77(6) 313-319.]
  • ­The effect of horticultural therapy on psychosocial health in older nursing home residents showed significant improvements in depression and loneliness. The study followed 10 residents of a home in Taiwan who took part in a 10-week programme of 1.5-hour sessions. They were tested before, after, and at weeks 5 and 10 of the programme, using combined quantitative and qualitative measures. Four categories emerged from the qualitative data content analysis: social connection, anticipation and hope, sense of achievement, and companionship. [Chen, Y-M, Ji, J-Y, (2015). Effects of Horticultural Therapy on Psychosocial Health in Older Nursing Home Residents: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Nursing Research. 23(3) 167-171.]
  • ­The mental health charity Mind ran an ‘ecotherapy scheme’ (Ecominds) which funded 130 environmental projects, including but not specially STH programmes, for people living with mental health problems. Some 803 participants took part. The Authors found that ecotherapy can: ‘be effective in raising mental wellbeing to ‘average’ levels; enhance social inclusion …; be successful in both increasing contact with and connection to nature, enabling participants to benefit further from the associated health and wellbeing benefits; can improve wellbeing and social inclusion and equip participants with useful coping skills; …’ [Bragg, R., Wood, C., Barton J. Ecominds Effects on Wellbeing: an evaluation for Mind (2013)]

Coming to Thrive has helped Leslie in the aftermath of intensive cancer treatment for a tumour affecting his head. After going through weeks of radiotherapy, Leslie says Thrive’s programmes have boosted him mentally, physically and emotionally. He was interested in learning about gardening and joined the Sow & Grow programme for the over-50s - a programme that brings together small groups of socially isolated older people by providing a 12-week tabletop gardening course in the Thrive Gardens. The programme introduced him to many gardening activities:

It was very interesting. I met new people, most of them had their own garden and the ladies, in particular, knew the names of the plants and I learnt from them too.

Indeed, since Leslie’s Sow & Grow group came to an end, he has met up with its other members outside of Thrive to stay in touch.