In case you need another good reason to spend time on the farm, the Norwegians have just documented one. Hanging around the homestead, communing with cows, sheep, pigs and the like can help people with mental illness cope better with their stress, according to a study out Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Aas.
Specifically, the 60 some study patients, who suffered from schizophrenia, anxiety, personality or emotional disorders, after spending three hours twice a week for three months with the animals significantly improved their self sufficiency.

And according to a Reuter’s article, the researchers took measures to ensure the animals were the positive variable.

“The study tried to ensure that the patients' positive responses were not caused by the kindness of a farmer or some other factor unrelated to the animals. During farm visits the patients were not, for instance, given coffee breaks.”

While the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy has been noted in cat and dog care for some time, this is the first study to chart it in farm animals. This idea of Green Care farming has taken hold in Norway where it’s now part of a Ministry of Agriculture and Food program. For those who speak Norwegian, this site lists the participating farmers.

As experts on the green movement, we’re willing to go out on a limb and extrapolate the results to say they likely apply to all of us. We could all use some more farm time.

Story by Victoria Schlesinger. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008