Agricultural experience helps reduce stress hormones, study shows

TOKYO, Jul. 11 – The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-ZENCHU), an apex organization of agricultural cooperatives (JAs) in Japan, and Juntendo University announced on July 10 a result of their joint study which showed that getting hands-on experience at a farm has an effect of reducing stress and increasing sense of happiness.

Using the data, JA-ZENCHU hopes to further promote farms that provide agricultural experiences to attract more users.

JA-ZENCHU and the university conducted the research in November 2018 with cooperation from National Farming Experience Farms, a nonprofit organization promoting farms that offer agricultural experiences, to see the effects of farming experience on people’s stress levels.

They asked 40 men and women living in urban areas to engage in farm work, including harvesting and applying fertilizers, for an hour and compared their saliva samples taken before and after the activity.

They found that cortisol and chromogranin A, hormones whose level rises when a person is stressed, declined after farming experiences, while oxytocin, a hormone associated with happiness, showed an increasing trend, although the level of increase varied depending on the sex and individuals.

They also conducted a questionnaire on the participants asking them to indicate their feelings in figures and confirmed that negative emotions such as depression declined after the hands-on experience.

Using the study results, JA-ZENCHU plans to cooperate with companies to improve employee benefits and hopes to work together with the medical sector as well.

“If people become more familiar with agriculture, their understanding (of the farm industry) will also become greater,” said JA-ZENCHU vice chairman Masatoshi Sudo at a news conference.

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