'Nature and Health' in Sweden


  • K. Abramsson
  • C. Tenngart


During recent years, Sweden has faced an increasing number of people being out of work due to long-term sick leave. This has led to numerous investigations and official reports on behalf of the Swedish government, concerning the necessity of measures to be taken to improve the health situation in working life, and to improve the sick listing and the rehabilitation processes. It is becoming more and more common to look for activities outdoors or in nature in terms of restoration, health promotion or rehabilitation. Still there is no particular section or organization for care farms or related activities in Sweden today. The Federation of Swedish Farmers started a national project, Nature and Health, aiming at forming a network including researchers, public authorities, the private business world, the health-care sector and the green sector. There is a growing interest in working with health-promoting and rehabilitative measures with nature and farming as a basis. Several regional projects of this kind are about to start. Cooperation with researchers is very important to legitimate the work in the area of nature and health, in this case care farms and horticultural therapy. Most research in these fields is done at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Landscape Planning Alnarp, where interdisciplinary research is conducted in which landscape architects dealing with design in relation to environmental psychology and researchers in other disciplines are working together. Collaborators regarding health and horticultural therapy are for example Karolinska Institutet, the Medical Faculty at Lund University and Vaxjo University Hospital in Sweden and the University of Michigan, Texas A & M University and North Carolina State University in the USA. Research by the Section for Health Care Research at Sahlgrenska, a hospital in Gothenburg, showed that a nature-based lifestyle has an improving impact on health. At present we have no knowledge of the current number of so-called care farms in Sweden. We do not even know how many of them have agreements with the social-insurance office, the County Council, the County Labour-market Board or municipalities. What we do know is that horticultural therapy is growing in Sweden and that it often is connected to different educational programmes. The agreements that are made are written directly between buyers and producers. The interest in care farms and horticultural therapy by public authorities is also increasing but there are still very few who dare to put money into the development of this area. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has shown interest but the State does not provide capital for a national venture. However, there have been some initial discussions between the Social Insurance Office, municipalities, County Labour-market Board and County Council regarding a number of regional projects. The more good results and examples can be shown, including international ones, the more it facilitates future projects regarding care farms, horticultural therapy and animal-assisted therapy