Spending time on a farm looking after cows, horses, or other animals can help people with mental illness better manage their anxieties and increase their confidence, according to a study recently published in Norway.
The findings by Norwegian scientists could further widen use of "Green care", which enlists nature to ease patients' suffering.
"Looking after and having contact with farm animals has some positive effects on psychiatric patients with a diversity of serious illnesses," said lead author Bente Berget of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Aas, west Norway.
The patients -- suffering from schizophrenia, anxiety, personality or emotional disorders -- visited a farm for three hours twice a week for 12 weeks and worked mainly with dairy cows, cattle raised for meat and horses.
"The use of farms in promoting human mental and physical health in cooperation with health authorities is increasing in Europe and the United States, particularly under the Green care banner," a statement about the study said.
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.