A Healthy New Year's Resolution: How Flowers Help With Health & Happiness

The Gardenist

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I learned something interesting while chatting with a cut flower farmer in California recently. Americans spend an average of $20 per year on cut flowers. That is a shockingly low (at least to me) number that implies that Americans buy (on average) one bouquet a year.

It is especially low when you compare with Europeans: the Swiss, for example, spend an average of $200 per year (10x more!). This surprising contrast got me thinking about why you might buy flowers.

We have a mountain of posts here on Apartment Therapy about everything from arranging flowers like the French, to the best way to display cut flowers, to making cut flowers last longer, but I am not quite sure we have ever fully discussed why you should buy them in the first place.

Obviously, cut flowers are pretty and they make for an excellent thing to have in your home — just for the way they look. You can compare them with a nice piece of art (but they are much cheaper), or a favorite mantelpiece (but one which can be changed to always be fresh and new). But flowers pack with them something else — they have been scientifically proven to make you happier.

Researchers Seong-Hyun Park and Richard H. Mattson or Kansas State University found that hospital patients who stayed in rooms filled with plants and flowers had "significantly fewer intakes of postoperative analgesics, more positive physiological responses evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and more positive feelings and higher satisfaction about their rooms when compared with patients in the control group". If flowers can do that for hospital patients, surely a healthy person can gain some benefit by putting them in their home. Right?

There is also evidence that plants and flowers in the workplace improve efficiency (read more here and here). Dr Haviland-Jones of Rutgers University currently has a grant to study the effect of cut flowers on dementia and Alzheimer's patients, following anecdotal reporting by nurses that when flowers arrive in Alzheimer's units patients have 'better' days. Another study cites "eased depression, improved social interaction, and enhanced memory in adults age 55 and older" when they are given flowers.

And for creatives, this study links improved creative abilities to looking at greenery (specifically plants). And even more interesting, the effect was more pronounced in women.

So in 2014, I'm resolving to live like I'm Swiss. Better health, greater efficiency, and more creativity? Seems like $200 well spent...and it's much cheaper than joining a gym.

(Image credits: Adrienne Breaux)