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  • Posted March 21, 2024

Knitting Helps Keep Troubled Minds From Unraveling, Study Finds

Stressed out, anxious or desperately needing to recharge?

Grab some knitting needles and a pretty ball of yarn -- Swedish research shows yarncraft improves mental health without medication.

"Knitters have a creative leisure interest that can also help them cope with life and so improve their mental health," said first author Joanna Nordstrand, an occupational therapist pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Gothenburg. "I'm convinced that this is part of the reason why so many people have taken up knitting these days."

Nordstrand, who is among them, explored the mental health benefits of knitting in a study recently published in the Journal of Occupational Science.

For the study, she reviewed 600 posts from the online fiber arts forum Ravelry, where stitching buffs gather to discuss their hobby. 

Reinforcing a picture emerging from other studies, their posts revealed three ways in which knitting boosts health. The hobby helps folks unwind, gives them an identity as a knitter in a social context with low stakes. It can also bring structure to people's lives -- which benefits mental health.

In the posts, some knitters said they noticed the change in their mental health: When they were knitting, thinking was clearer and easier to manage.

"The nurses were wanting to give me [an antianxiety medication] until I told them that I preferred knitting for the anxiety," one knitter commented online. "She stopped, looked at me, and said, 'That's much healthier than drugs.' Ya think?"

Said another: "While my hands are busy doing something, my mind slows to a crawl, and I am actually able to think about one thing at a time … rather than having 20-30 threads all going at once." 

Knitters said the appreciation they receive from recipients of their work makes them feel good, too.

"The aim of the occupational therapist is to get people's lives working," one of Nordstrand's fellow researchers commented in a news release. "There's potential in needles and yarn that the health system shouldn't ignore."

Birgitta Gunnarsson and Greta Häggblom Kronlöf, of the university's Department of Health Rehabilitation are co-authors of the study.

More information

Kaiser Permanente has more about the health benefits of hobbies.

SOURCE: University of Gothenburg, news release, March 19, 2024

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