Gardening Is Associated with Better Cardiovascular Health Status Among Older Adults in the United States: Analysis of the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey

Published:October 30, 2022DOI:



      Gardening benefits health in older adults, but previous studies have limited generalizability or do not adequately adjust for sociodemographic factors or physical activity (PA).


      We examined health outcomes, fruits and vegetables (F&V) intake, and 10-year mortality risk among gardeners and exercisers compared with nonexercisers.


      Cross-sectional data of noninstitutionalized US adults in the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was collected via landline and cellular phone survey.


      Adults 65 years and older reporting any PA (n = 146,047) were grouped as gardeners, exercisers, or nonexercisers.

      Main outcome measures

      Outcomes included cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, mental and physical health, F&V intake, and 10-year mortality risk.

      Statistical analyses

      Summary statistics were calculated and adjusted logistic regression models were conducted to calculate adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% CIs, accounting for the complex survey design.


      The sample included gardeners (10.2%), exercisers (60.0%), and nonexercisers (30.8%). Gardeners, compared with nonexercisers, had significantly lower odds of reporting all studied health outcomes and higher odds of consuming 5 or more F&V per day (CVD: aOR 0.60, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.68; stroke: aOR 0.55, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.64; heart attack: aOR 0.63, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.73, high cholesterol: aOR 0.86, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.93; high blood pressure: aOR 0.74, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.81; diabetes: aOR 0.51, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.56; body mass index ≥25: aOR 0.74, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.80; poor mental health status: aOR 0.50, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.59; poor physical health status: aOR 0.35, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.39; 5 or more F&V per day: aOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.40 to 1.57; high 10-year mortality risk: aOR 0.39, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.42). Male and female gardeners had significantly lower odds of reporting diabetes even when compared with exercisers.


      Among adults 65 years and older, gardening is associated with better CVD health status, including lower odds of diabetes. Future longitudinal or interventional studies are warranted to determine whether promoting gardening activities can be a CVD risk reduction strategy.


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      S. Veldheer is an assistant professor, Departments of Family and Community Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.


      W.-J. Tuan is an assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine Hershey, PA.


      L. Al-Shaar is an assistant professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.


      M. Wadsworth is a professor, Department of Psychology, Penn State University, State College, PA.


      L. Sinoway is a professor, Department of Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.


      K. H. Schmitz is a distinguished professor, Departments of Public Health Sciences and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.


      C. Sciamanna is a professor, Departments of Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.


      X. Gao is a professor, Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Nutrition and Food Hygiene and Key Laboratory of Public Health Safety of the Ministry of Education, Fudan University, Shanhai, China.