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ASHS 2024 Annual Conference

 

The Connection between Gardening and Outdoor Activity during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Perceptions of Hope, Hopelessness, and Levels of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Authors:
Makayla Johnson Department of Sustainability Studies, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA

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Tina Marie Waliczek Department of Agricultural Sciences, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA

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Coleman Etheredge Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39762, USA

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Jennifer Campbell Bradley School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, University of Mount Olive, Mount Olive, NC 28365, USA

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Abstract

During the past few years, Americans have experienced a wide variety of stressors, including political tensions, racial/civil unrest, and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. All of these have led to uncertainty within society. Chronic feelings of helplessness can lead to depression or feelings of hopelessness in those who perceive their situation as unchanging. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impacts of gardening and outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic on perceptions of hope, hopelessness, and levels of depression, stress, and anxiety. Participants of this study were recruited through online social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram; 458 participants completed the 21-item Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale inventory as well as the Hope Scale. Our data indicated that individuals who self-reported themselves as gardeners had significantly more positive scores related to levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and a sense of hope. Furthermore, gardeners had lower levels of self-reported depression, anxiety, and stress when compared with those who did not identify themselves as gardeners. The gardeners also had a more positive outlook regarding hope for the future. Additionally, a significant positive correlation was found between the number of hours spent participating in gardening and a sense of hope, and a negative correlation was found between the number of hours gardening and stress levels. Similarly, there was a significant negative correlation between the number of hours spent participating in any outdoor activity and self-reported levels of stress, anxiety, or depression; however, there was a positive correlation between the number of hours spent participating in any outdoor activity and a sense of hope. Our data suggested that more hours spent outside gardening or participating in recreational activities led to less perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and greater levels of hope for the future.

In late 2019 and early 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The first reported case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) arrived in the United States in the state of Washington (WHO 2020) on 23 Jan 2020. By Oct 2021, a total of 43,792,254 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the United States, resulting in a total of 703,599 deaths (WHO 2022).

COVID-19 heavily impacted the United States economy and job market. Between Feb 2020 and Apr 2020, 22 million jobs were lost. The job market rebounded to 11 million lost jobs by August (US Department of Labor 2020). Unemployment increased from 6 million in Feb 2020 to 23 million in Apr 2020, before settling at 11 million in Nov 2020 (Handwerker et al. 2020). In Apr 2020, there was an unemployment rate of 14.8%, which was the highest since 1948 (Falk et al. 2021).

COVID-19 had physical and psychological effects on individuals worldwide (Ettman et al. 2020; Wang et al. 2020, 2021). Levels of stress experienced by individuals were heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic (O’Byrne et al. 2021; Wang et al. 2020). Stress is defined as anxiety or discomfort resulting from the perception of a threat (Selye 1976). The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it extensive mediating measures that disrupted the daily lives and impacted the mental health of adults and children. A study performed by Araby et al. (2021) demonstrated that COVID-19 had a significant impact on daily life patterns of children, with 96.4% of participants in the study reporting changes in sleeping patterns, 77.8% reporting changes in eating patterns, and 70.5% reporting mood and behavior changes, particularly increased aggressive behavior.

Additionally, other stressful current events occurred simultaneously with COVID-19, including political tensions and racial/civil unrest. During 2020, the United States presidential election occurred. Approximately 78% of polled psychiatrists noted that their patients were very concerned about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The same study found that 66% of Biden supporters said they were scared about the future of the country, and that 33% of Trump supporters said the same (Czeisler et al. 2020). In 2020, 68% of adults reported that the United States presidential election was a source of significant stress, which was an increase from 52% recorded during the 2016 election (American Psychological Association APA 2020).

During the past 10 years, the American Psychological Association conducted annual surveys regarding stress levels of United States citizens. Increased levels of stress were reported by women and racial and ethnic minority groups (American Psychological Association 2017). Racial unrest stemming from police violence toward nonwhite civilians was prominent during the early months of the pandemic. The year 2020 included several high-profile police incidents, which sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the country and included millions of people. Protesting en masse posed immediate and unprecedented health risks related to the spread of COVID-19 as well as risks of violence (Cobbina et al. 2021). Previous data indicated that perceived racism is associated with depression, substance abuse, and psychological distress (Perry et al. 2013).

Stress and anxiety affect people in countless ways and can manifest in various forms. Stress is a response to a threat, whereas anxiety is a reaction to stress (American Psychological Association 2020). Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses diagnosed in the United States (Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2022). The average reported stress levels of adults in the United States based on a 10-point scale were 5.0 in 2020, 4.9 in 2019, and 4.9 in 2018. Adults who are part of Generation Z (age 18–23 years) reported increased stress levels over the past 2 years (from 5.6 in 2018 and 5.8 in 2019 to 6.1 in 2020 using the same 10-point scale) (Anxiety and Depression Association of America PA 2020). Stress and the associated feelings of anxiety and depression are associated with burnout, which is otherwise known as an exhausted state emerging from desires that are not met (Jones 1981), and burnout negatively affects job satisfaction (Demir 2018).

Stress can be characterized as environmental factors that strain individuals past their adaptive capacity, resulting in biological or physiological changes that place them at higher risk for illness or disease (Cohen et al. 1997). Stress is defined as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand” (Fink 2010). There are three general theories related to the effects of stress on individuals. First, the environmental theory focuses on stress that is objectively associated with the increased demand for one to adapt. Second, the psychological theory is related to one’s subjective assessment of one’s capacity to cope with the demands imposed by others. Finally, the biological theory refers to physiological systems that are known to be modified by both environmental and psychological stressors (Cohen et al. 1997).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, those who experienced symptoms of COVID-19 also experienced higher levels of stress and related anxiety (Wang et al. 2020). Anxiety and other adverse mental health conditions, including substance abuse and suicidal ideation, reported by adults in the United States were three-times higher in Jun 2020 than it was during the second quarter of 2019, and the prevalence of depressive disorders was approximately four-times higher than that reported during the second quarter of 2019 (Czeisler et al. 2020). Stress levels were higher for those with self-reported chronic conditions and disabilities, and coping strategies were positively associated with this stress. These strategies include behavioral disengagement, self-blame, self-distraction, substance use, and denial (Umucu and Lee 2020).

Hopelessness is connected to depression and suicide, and those experiencing hopelessness may increase one’s wish to cease living (Downman 2008). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, suicide was the tenth most common cause of death for Americans of all ages (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020). Hallensleben et al. (2019) reported that hopelessness has the most robust and largest effect on suicidal ideation and noted the importance of assessing hopelessness as a risk factor. The hopelessness theory of depression argues that repeated exposure to uncontrollable or adverse environmental stimuli gradually leads to the belief that the adverse situation is inescapable, rendering the person helpless. This helplessness leads to depression for those who perceive their situation as unchanging (Abramson et al. 1989). An estimated 7.1% of adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017 (National Institute of Mental Health 2022). The prevalence of depression symptoms for residents of the United States was higher in every category of the Life Stressors Impact on Mental Health and Well-being survey during COVID-19 than before COVID-19 (Ettman et al. 2020).

Hopeful is defined as having the qualities of “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment” (Merriam-Webster 2021a). Hope comprises a positive outlook on life, which is not necessarily sustained at all times but is experienced periodically (Downman 2008). On the contrary, hopeless is defined as “having no expectation of good or success” (Merriam-Webster 2021b). Hope is important to study because it relates to one’s sense of the future and one’s place within that future (Downman 2008). Feelings of hope result in strong motivating power in terms of economic behavior. Additionally, the effects of hope seem to be positive and include increases in innovation, consumer satisfaction, and well-being (Pleeging and Burger 2020). Hope has an important role in the lives of people, especially when illness and recovery are present. Despite uncertainty, illness, or the frailty of life, hope is possible (Moore 2005). Hope is linked with the human ability to adapt and live meaningful lives (Jevne et al. 1999).

Previous research demonstrated that interactions with nature have positive effects on health and well-being (Ulrich et al. 1991). Multiple studies have shown that gardening is a restorative activity that can help individuals recover from stress and the effects of stress on the body (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Milligan et al. 2004). Gardening promotes physical well-being by reducing stress and potentially promoting an increase in social cohesion (Elings 2006). Furthermore, gardening is an accessible resource for disease prevention (Van Den Berg and Custers 2011) and a creative outlet that positively impacts those with stress-related illnesses when used as a rehabilitation technique (Eriksson et al. 2010). Interacting with plants in a garden setting promoted an atmosphere that prepared participants for therapy as well as an opportunity for thorough recovery from illness induced by stress (Adevi and Lieberg 2012). Participation in a 6-week indoor plant care program resulted in reductions of stress and depression for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (Kelley et al. 2017). Additionally, gardeners older than age 50 years reported greater reduced levels of stress compared with those using other methods of stress reduction (Hawkins et al. 2011).

Gardening has been associated with greater well-being and happiness. For example, Waliczek et al. (2005) reported that gardeners perceived a greater quality of life than nongardeners and more positively rated their energy levels, optimism, zest for life, and physical self-concept. Gardeners also had higher self-ratings of their overall health and physical activity levels (Waliczek et al. 2005). Sommerfeld et al. (2010) found similar results when comparing gardeners and nongardeners who were older than age 50 years, with greater overall life satisfaction levels observed for gardeners. Community gardeners reported that gardening positively impacted their lives in areas related to all levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (Waliczek et al. 1996).

Problem statement

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of gardening and outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic on perceptions of hope and hopelessness and levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.

Materials and methods

Sample

Participants were recruited using a convenience sampling method. Advertisements asking for participation were posted on online social media platforms such as Facebook® (Meta Platforms, Inc., Menlo Park, CA, USA) and Instagram® (Meta Platforms, Inc.). To attract gardeners, social media posts and advertisements of the survey were posted on various houseplant and gardening threads and social groups. Nongardeners were recruited through general online social networking. Seed packets were offered as incentives for participating.

Instrument

The entire instrument contained a total of 55 questions. Participants completed the 21-item Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) inventory (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995a), which is a well-established psychometric instrument used for clinical and nonclinical samples. The DASS-21 is a short form of the standard DASS-42, which is a 42-item scale. Both the DASS-21 and DASS-42 inventory are formatted and used as a self-reported 4-point Likert scale designed to measure three sets of emotional states: depression, anxiety, and stress (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995a). Participants respond to statements regarding their feeling over the course of the previous week, with options ranging from zero to four. Answers included “did not apply to me at all,” “applies to me to some degree or some of the time,” “applies to me to a considerable degree or good part of the time,” and “applies to me very much.” The intensity of the emotional states is determined by the sum of scores, with higher scores indicating greater severity of the emotional states of depression, anxiety, and stress. The highest score for each individual section is 48 points, whereas the lowest is 7 points. Overall, the highest score possible for DASS-21 is 84 points, whereas the lowest possible score is 21 points. The DASS-21 has been examined among clinical and nonclinical samples and was found to have reliability values of 0.94 for DASS-D (depression), 0.87 for DASS-A (anxiety), and 0.91 for DASS-S (stress) (Mahmoud et al. 2010).

Each of the three DASS-21 scales contains seven items divided into subscales with similar content. The depression scale assesses dissatisfaction, hopelessness, devaluation of life, self-deprecation/criticism, lack of interest or involvement, and the inability to experience activities that were once found to be enjoyable (Mahmoud et al. 2010). The anxiety scale assesses involuntary arousal, skeletal muscle effects, situational anxiety, and subjective experience of uneasiness. The stress scale is sensitive to levels of ongoing stress. It assesses difficulty relaxing, nervous arousal, and becoming easily upset, agitated, irritable, over-reactive, and impatient (Mahmoud et al. 2010). Scores were interpreted using distributions based on the DASS-21 scoring system and severity score ranges (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995a) (Table 1).

Table 1.

Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b) cutoff scores for conventional severity levels during the study of the effect of gardening and outdoor activities on the depression, anxiety, stress, and levels of hope of gardeners and nongardeners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 1.

The survey also incorporated the Hope Scale (Snyder 1995), which is a 12-point instrument that allows participants to answer question using a 4-point scale. Answers included “definitely false,” “mostly false,” “mostly true,” and “definitely true.” Examples of statements included, “I energetically pursue my goals” and “I’ve been pretty successful at life.” Higher scores indicate greater hopefulness. The highest score for the Hope Scale is 48 points, and the lowest score is 12 points. The instrument was validated by previous studies and had a reliability value of at least 0.80 according to previous research (Hellman et al. 2013).

Participants were asked whether they perceived themselves to be a gardener or nongardener by responding to the question, “Do you garden?”. A follow-up question with multiple choice options regarding the type of gardening in which they participate (e.g., community, home vegetable, landscape, houseplants) was also asked. Participants were also asked about their other outdoor hobbies and the amount of time typically spent outdoors weekly during those activities. The respondents chose activities from the following list of outdoor activities that they participated in: walking/jogging/hiking; boating; yoga/tai chi; biking; tennis; archery; sports (soccer, baseball); and skating/skateboarding. They also had the option to provide other types of outdoor activities in which they may have participated.

The survey also collected participants’ demographic information such as ethnicity, age, highest level of completed education, average household income, and place of residence. Before administration, the overall survey was reviewed for validity for this study by a panel of horticultural and social scientists.

Survey administration

The survey was posted online using a survey collection website (SurveyMonkey; Momentive Inc., San Mateo, CA, USA) from Oct 2020 through May 2021; respondents required ∼15 min to complete the survey.

Data analysis

Data were entered into a spreadsheet and scored (Microsoft Excel; Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, USA); then, they were analyzed using statistical software (IBM SPSS Statistics version 20.0; IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA). A statistical analysis of quantitative data included descriptive statistics, frequencies, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), and Pearson product-moment correlations. The alpha level for statistical significance was set at 0.10. This level of significance is considered conventional in the social sciences (Noymer 2008).

Results and discussion

An exemption request for this research was approved by the Texas State University Institutional Review Board (7516).

Demographics

There were 458 total participants included in the study, with 299 self-reporting as gardeners and 159 self-reporting as nongardeners. The sample included 247 (82.6%) gardeners who identified as female, 38 (12.7%) who identified as male, and 13 (4.3%) who identified as nonbinary. However, 124 (78.6%) nongardeners identified as female, 33 (20.8%) identified as male, and 1 (0.6%) identified as nonbinary. Women represented a higher percentage of gardeners, which is consistent with other research, suggesting that women participate in gardening more often than men (Blaine et al. 2010; Schrock et al. 1999; Takle et al. 2017).

Nongardeners surveyed included 103 (64.8%) individuals who were younger than age 25 years, whereas 122 (40.8%) gardeners were younger than age 25 years. The sample included 90 (30.2%) gardeners who were between ages 41 and 70 years, whereas only 33 (20.7%) in the same age group were nongardeners. The median age of the samples in previous studies that investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was 42 years (Fratello et al. 2022). In this study, 122 (40.8%) gardeners were younger than age 25 years. An increased interest in gardening occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, and younger people have taken more of an interest in gardening (National Garden Association 2021). These results could be partly attributable to the fact that the survey was distributed using social media, which has the potential of reaching a younger audience. For instance, the average age of social media users who use Facebook is 40.5 years (Phillips 2016), and 62% of Instagram users are younger than age 35 years (Aslam 2022).

Full-time or part-time employees accounted for 110 (69.1%) nongardeners, whereas full-time or part-time employees accounted for only 153 (51.1%) gardeners. In contrast, 3 (1.9%) nongardeners were homemakers, whereas 34 (11.4%) gardeners were homemakers. Additionally, 46 (28.9%) nongardeners were either retired or not currently working, whereas 112 (37.5%) gardeners reported they were either retired or not currently working. A larger portion of the gardener sample included older individuals, which is consistent with the typical gardener demographics reported previously (Blaine et al. 2010; Schrock et al. 1999; Takle et al. 2017).

Descriptive statistics describing gardening activities

During the survey, participants were asked which type of garden they worked in and to indicate all types of gardens that applied to them. Home gardens comprised 191 (41.3%) of the responses. Community gardens comprised 12 (2.6%) of the responses. Additionally, 205 (44.3%) participants responded that they had interior plants, and 115 (24.8%) respondents indicated that they had a container garden. Results indicated that 199 (43.0%) people had ornamental plants and 243 (52.5%) had houseplants at their residence. Other gardens included vegetable and fruit gardens (178; 38.4%) and herb gardens (153; 33.0%). When participants were asked how many hours per week they spent tending to their gardens during the growing season, most respondents (99; 32.7%) spent 1 h, 93 (20.2%) spent 2 h, and 52 (11.2%) spent 3 h per week in their gardens. Most people spent an additional 1 h (48; 15.7%), 2 h (44; 14.4%), 3 h (62; 20.3%), or 4 h (54; 17.6%) gardening every week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, 69 (22.5%) participants reported they spent 7 h more per week gardening compared to past years.

Gardeners were asked why they chose to garden and could choose multiple responses from a list of answers: 227 (75.9%) reported that they participated in gardening for mental health reasons; 226 (75.5%) said they gardened for self-expression; 208 (69.5%) said they gardened for recreation; and 119 (66.5%) stated they gardened to obtain produce. Other answers included gardening for spiritual reasons (167; 55.8%), for physical health/exercise (96; 32.1%), and for economic reasons (56; 18.7%). These findings align with reasons why people gardened before the COVID-19 pandemic. During a research study that investigated the current gardeners’ reasons for gardening that was published before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that people gardened for unseen benefits, for relaxation, as a therapeutic way to be close to nature, and because gardening “spoke to their soul” (McFarland et al. 2018).

Comparisons of gardeners and nongardeners using the DASS-21 and Hope Scale

Multivariate analysis of covariance tests were used to compare the gardeners’ and nongardeners’ scores on the overall DASS-21 or their individual depression, anxiety, stress, or Hope Scale scores (Table 2). Because of the confounding demographic gender identification, age, and employment level differences between groups within the sample, these variables were covaried out statistically during the multivariate analysis of variance comparisons.

Table 2.

Multivariate analysis of variance comparisons of gardeners’ and nongardeners’ depression scores, anxiety scores, stress scores, overall Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b) scores, and the Hope Scale (Snyder 1995) scores during the study of the effect of gardening and outdoor activities on the depression, anxiety, stress, and levels of hope of gardeners and nongardeners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 2.

A significant correlation was found when comparing gardeners’ and nongardeners’ scores on the overall DASS-21 or the individual depression (P = 0.001), anxiety, (P = 0.001), stress (P = 0.001), and Hope Scale (P = 0.001) scale scores. Nongardeners’ scores were higher for each of the inventories; therefore, they indicated more depression, anxiety, and stress in comparison with gardeners’ scores. Gardeners scored an average of 12.56 on the depression portion, 11.35 on the anxiety portion, and 14.20 on the stress portion, ranking them as mild, moderate, and normal, respectively (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b). Nongardeners scored an average of 12.69 on the depression portion, 11.55 on the anxiety portion, and 14.49 on the stress portion, which ranked them similarly as mild, moderate, and normal (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b), but not as positively when compared with gardeners’ scores. Gardeners also had significantly more positive Hope Scale scores; they scored an average of 33.72 on the Hope Scale, whereas nongardeners scored an average of 33.34 (Table 2).

Correlations regarding time spent gardening and levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and hope

One question asked gardeners how many hours per week they spent participating in gardening activities. A statistically significant correlation was found: those who reported gardening more often weekly during the COVID-19 pandemic had scores indicating lower levels of stress (P = 0.088) as well as greater Hope Scale scores (P = 0.076) (Table 3). No significant correlations were found for the other variables related to depression, anxiety, or the overall DASS-21 score. This is consistent with previous research that demonstrated that interactions with nature have positive effects on health and well-being (Ulrich et al. 1991) and aid in recovery from stress (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989).

Table 3.

Correlation matrix indicating the Pearson’s product-moment correlation between time spent gardening, Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b) score, depression score, anxiety score, stress score, and the Hope Scale (Snyder 1995) score during the study of the effect of gardening and outdoor activities on the depression, anxiety, stress, and levels of hope of gardeners and nongardeners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 3.

Correlations regarding time spent outside and levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and hope

One question asked respondents how many hours per week were spent participating in outdoor activities during the pandemic. Descriptive statistics indicated that 43 (9.3%) of the sample reported participating in no outdoor activities, whereas 420 (90.7%) of the sample participated in some sort of outdoor activity. When asked, 180 (38.9%) participants described spending at least 1 h outside participating in hobbies. Outdoor activities comprised 2 h of 134 (28.9%) of the participants’ day, whereas 88 (19.0%) reported they spent 3 h doing the same. Participants were asked to describe which types of outdoor activities in which they participated. Responses indicated that 353 (76.2%) walked, 55 (11.9%) participated in boating, 71 (15.3%) practiced yoga, 85 (18.4%) biked, 26 (5.6%) played tennis, 23 (5.1%) competed in archery, and 83 (17.9%) participated in sports such as soccer, baseball, or skating.

A statistically significant correlation was found: those who reported being involved more often in an outdoor hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic also had lower depression (P = 0.014), anxiety (P = 0.071), stress (P = 0.048), and overall DASS-21 scores (P = 0.021) as well as greater Hope Scale scores (P < 0.001) (Table 4). The correlations indicated that people who spent more time outdoors had lower scores for depression, anxiety, and stress and higher scores for hope. These findings support similar studies that showed that urban neighborhoods with more green space were linked to lower levels of perceived stress and improved physiological stress when measured by levels of cortisol (Roe et al. 2013).

Table 4.

Correlation matrix indicating the Pearson’s product-moment correlation between time spent outdoors, Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) (Lovibond and Lovibond 1995b) score, depression score, anxiety score, stress score and the Hope Scale (Snyder 1995) score during the study of the effect of gardening and outdoor activities on the depression, anxiety, stress, and levels of hope of gardeners and nongardeners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table 4.

Conclusions

People in the United States have experienced considerable stressful events in recent years. These events, general uncertainty, and isolation have been linked with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. To enable full participation in day-to-day life, it is imperative to explore mental health management strategies. This study suggested that more hours spent outside gardening or participating in recreational activities led to improvements in levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as well as greater levels of hope for the future. This research supported other research conducted during the pandemic that called for further studies to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems, including the impact of gardening (Egerer et al. 2022; King et al. 2022; Sia et al. 2022). Results such as these should encourage more people to make a purposeful effort to incorporate time outside as part of their general approach to healthy living. The results indicate a need for policies and city planning that increase opportunities for quality time outdoors; furthermore, a special focus should be on policies making outdoor activities more available during times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, because more frequent viral outbreaks are expected in the future (Mora et al. 2022). The results showed that active engagement with plants and nature through gardening helped increase benefits compared with those of nongardeners. Additionally, these results could encourage a more comprehensive approach and varied strategies for the treatment of stress-related conditions in the future.

This research highlights the importance of access to green space and outdoor activities such as gardening. This is particularly important for those living in metropolitan areas, where green space might be less available with the development of housing, commerce, and transportation. Access to outdoor green spaces and activities may be reconsidered as more important for residential care facilities, prison systems, and schools.

This study was limited to those who volunteered to participate in the study and to those who had access to a computer and internet connection during the course of the study, which was performed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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  • Fink, G 2010 Stress science: Neuroendocrinology Academic Press Cambridge, MA, USA

  • Fratello, DS, Campbell, BL, Secor, WG & Campbell, JH. 2022 Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gardening in the United States: Post pandemic expectations HortTechnology. 32 32 38 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04911-21

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  • Hallensleben, N, Glaesmer, H, Forkmann, T, Rath, D, Strauss, M, Kersting, A & Spangenberg, L. 2019 Predicting suicidal ideation by interpersonal variables, hopelessness, and depression in real-time. An ecological momentary assessment study in psychiatric inpatients with depression Eur Psychiatry. 56 43 50 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.11.003

    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Handwerker, EW, Meyer, PB & Piacentini, J. 2020 Employment recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/employment-recovery.htm. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawkins, JL, Thirlaway, KJ, Backx, K & Clayton, DA. 2011 Allotment gardening and other leisure activities for stress reduction and healthy aging HortTechnology. 21 577 585 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.21.5.577

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hellman, CM, Pittman, MK & Munoz, RT. 2013 The first twenty years of the will and the ways: An examination of score reliability distribution on Snyder’s dispositional hope scale J Happiness Stud. 14 723 729 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9351-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jevne, R, Nekolaichuk, C & Boman, J. 1999 Experiments in hope Blending art and science with service. The Hope Foundation Edmonton, AB, Canada

  • Jones, JW. 1981 The burnout syndrome: Current research, theory, interventions London House Press London, England

  • Kaplan, R & Kaplan, S. 1989 The experience of nature: A psychological perspective Cambridge Univ Press Cambridge, MA, USA

  • Kelley, RJ, Waliczek, TM & Le Duce, AF. 2017 The effects of greenhouse activities on psychological stress, depression, and anxiety among university students who served in the U.S. armed forces HortScience. 52 1834 1839 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI12372-17

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • King, S, McFarland, A & Vogelzang, J. 2022 Food sovereignty and sustainability mid-pandemic: How Michigan’s experience of Covid-19 highlights chasms in the food system Agric Human Values. 39 827 838 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-021-10270-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lovibond, PF & Lovibond, SH. 1995a The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the depression anxiety stress scales (DASS) with the Beck depression and anxiety inventories Behav Res Ther. 33 335 343 https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(94)00075-U

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lovibond, SH & Lovibond, PF. 1995b Manual for the depression, anxiety, and stress scales 2nd ed Psychol Foundation Sydney, Australia

  • Mahmoud, JSR, Hall, LA & Staten, R. 2010 The psychometric properties of the 21-item depression, anxiety, and stress scale (DASS-21) among a sample of young adults South Online J Nurs Res. 10 21 34 https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2018.95069

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McFarland, A, Waliczek, TM, Etheredge, C & Sommerfeld-Lillard, AJ. 2018 Understanding motivations for gardening using a qualitative general inductive approach HortTechnology. 28 289 295 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH03972-18

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merriam-Webster 2021a Definition of hopeful https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hopeful. [accessed 12 Jul 202]

  • Merriam-Webster 2021b Definition of hopelessness https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hopelessness. [accessed 14 May 2021]

  • Milligan, C, Gatrell, A & Bingley, A. 2004 Cultivating health: Therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England Soc Sci Med. 58 1781 1793 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(03)00397-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mora, C, McKinzie, T, Gaw, IM, Dean, JM, Von Hammerstein, H, Knudson, TA, Setter, RO, Smith, CZ, Webster, KM, Patz, JA & Franklin, EC. 2022 Over half of known human pathogenic diseases can be aggravated by climate change Nat Clim Chang. 12 869 875 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01426-1

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moore, SL. 2005 Hope makes a difference J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 12 100 105 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2850.2004.00802.x

  • Noymer, A. 2008 Alpha, significance level of test 18 Lavrakas, PJ Encyclopedia of survey research methods. Sage Publishing Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

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  • National Institute of Mental Health 2022 Major depression https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

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  • O’Byrne, L, Gavin, B, Adamis, D, Lim, YX & McNicholas, F. 2021 Levels of stress in medical students due to COVID-19 J Med Ethics. 47 383 388 https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2020-107155

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Perry, BL, Harp, KL & Oser, CB. 2013 Racial and gender discrimination in the stress process: Implications for African American women’s health and well-being Sociol Perspect. 56 25 48

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Phillips, JL. 2016 What is the breakdown of Facebook users by age? https://smallbusiness.chron.com/breakdown-facebook-users-age-63280.html. [accessed 17 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pleeging, E & Burger, M. 2020 Hope in economics 165 178 Van den Heuvel, SC Historical and multidisciplinary perspectives on hope. Springer International Publishing New York, NY, USA https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46489-9_9

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roe, JJ, Thompson, CW, Aspinall, PA, Brewer, MJ, Duff, EI, Miller, D, Mitchell, R & Clow, A. 2013 Green space and stress: Evidence from cortisol measures in deprived urban communities Int J Environ Res Public Health. 10 4086 4103 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10094086

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schrock, DS, Meyer, M, Ascher, P & Snyder, M. 1999 Missouri master gardener demographics. J Ext. 37(5):5RIB4 https://archives.joe.org/joe/1999october/rb4.php. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Selye, H. 1976 Stress in health and disease Butterworth Stoneham, MA

  • Sia, A, Yok Tan, P, Wong, J, Araib, S, Ang, W & Er, K. 2022 The impact of gardening on mental resilience in times of stress: A case study during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snyder, CR. 1995 Conceptualizing, measuring, and nurturing hope J Couns Dev. 73 355 360 https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1995.tb01764.x

  • Sommerfeld, AJ, Waliczek, TM & Zajicek, JM. 2010 Growing minds: Evaluating the effect of gardening on quality of life and physical activity level of older adults HortTechnology. 20 705 710 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.20.4.705

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Takle, B, Haynes, C & Schrock, D. 2017 Using demographic survey results to target Master Gardener volunteer recruitment. J Ext. 55(3):v55-3rb8 https://archives.joe.org/joe/2017june/rb8.php. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ulrich, RS, Simons, RF, Losito, BD, Fiorito, E, Miles, MA & Zelson, M. 1991 Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments J Environ Psychol. 11 201 230 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80184-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Umucu, E & Lee, B. 2020 Examining the impact of COVID-19 on stress and coping strategies in individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions Rehabil Psychol. 65 193 198 https://doi.org/10.1037/rep0000328

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • US Department of Labor 2020 The employment situation – July 2020 https://www.employnm.com/post/bureau-of-labor-statistics-state-employment-and-unemployment-july-2020. [accessed 21 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Den Berg, AE & Custers, MHG. 2011 Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress J Health Psychol. 16 3 11 https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310365577

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    • Export Citation
  • Wang, C, Pan, R, Wan, X, Tan, Y, Xu, L, Ho, C & Ho, R. 2020 Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China Int J Environ Res Public Health. 17 1 25 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051729

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    • Export Citation
  • Wang, C, Tee, M, Roy, AE, Fardin, MA, Srichokchatchawan, W, Habib, HA, Tran, B, Hussain, S, Hoang, MT, Le, XT, Ma, W, Pham, HQ, Shirazi, M, Taneepanichskul, N, Tan, Y, Tee, C, Xu, L, Xu, Z, Vu, GT, Zhou, G, Koh, BJ, McIntyre, RS, Ho, C, Ho, RC & Kuruchittham, V. 2021 The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health of Asians: A study of seven middle-income countries in Asia https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0246824&type=printable. [accessed 16 Jul 2022]

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    • Export Citation
  • Waliczek, TM, Zajicek, JM & Lineberger, RD. 2005 The influence of gardening activities on consumer perceptions of life satisfaction HortScience. 40 1360 1365 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.40.5.1360

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    • Export Citation
  • World Health Organization 2020 Novel coronavirus (2019-NCoV) Situation Report - 3: 23 January 2020 https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation- reports/20200123-sitrep-3-2019-ncov.pdf? sfvrsn=d6d23643_8. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

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  • Falk, G, Romero, PD, Carter, JA, Nicchitta, IA & Nyhof, EC. 2021 Unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic Congressional Res Serv R46554. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/r/r46554/6. [accessed 21 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fink, G 2010 Stress science: Neuroendocrinology Academic Press Cambridge, MA, USA

  • Fratello, DS, Campbell, BL, Secor, WG & Campbell, JH. 2022 Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gardening in the United States: Post pandemic expectations HortTechnology. 32 32 38 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04911-21

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hallensleben, N, Glaesmer, H, Forkmann, T, Rath, D, Strauss, M, Kersting, A & Spangenberg, L. 2019 Predicting suicidal ideation by interpersonal variables, hopelessness, and depression in real-time. An ecological momentary assessment study in psychiatric inpatients with depression Eur Psychiatry. 56 43 50 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.11.003

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Handwerker, EW, Meyer, PB & Piacentini, J. 2020 Employment recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/employment-recovery.htm. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawkins, JL, Thirlaway, KJ, Backx, K & Clayton, DA. 2011 Allotment gardening and other leisure activities for stress reduction and healthy aging HortTechnology. 21 577 585 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.21.5.577

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hellman, CM, Pittman, MK & Munoz, RT. 2013 The first twenty years of the will and the ways: An examination of score reliability distribution on Snyder’s dispositional hope scale J Happiness Stud. 14 723 729 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9351-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jevne, R, Nekolaichuk, C & Boman, J. 1999 Experiments in hope Blending art and science with service. The Hope Foundation Edmonton, AB, Canada

  • Jones, JW. 1981 The burnout syndrome: Current research, theory, interventions London House Press London, England

  • Kaplan, R & Kaplan, S. 1989 The experience of nature: A psychological perspective Cambridge Univ Press Cambridge, MA, USA

  • Kelley, RJ, Waliczek, TM & Le Duce, AF. 2017 The effects of greenhouse activities on psychological stress, depression, and anxiety among university students who served in the U.S. armed forces HortScience. 52 1834 1839 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI12372-17

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • King, S, McFarland, A & Vogelzang, J. 2022 Food sovereignty and sustainability mid-pandemic: How Michigan’s experience of Covid-19 highlights chasms in the food system Agric Human Values. 39 827 838 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-021-10270-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lovibond, PF & Lovibond, SH. 1995a The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the depression anxiety stress scales (DASS) with the Beck depression and anxiety inventories Behav Res Ther. 33 335 343 https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(94)00075-U

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lovibond, SH & Lovibond, PF. 1995b Manual for the depression, anxiety, and stress scales 2nd ed Psychol Foundation Sydney, Australia

  • Mahmoud, JSR, Hall, LA & Staten, R. 2010 The psychometric properties of the 21-item depression, anxiety, and stress scale (DASS-21) among a sample of young adults South Online J Nurs Res. 10 21 34 https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2018.95069

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McFarland, A, Waliczek, TM, Etheredge, C & Sommerfeld-Lillard, AJ. 2018 Understanding motivations for gardening using a qualitative general inductive approach HortTechnology. 28 289 295 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH03972-18

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Merriam-Webster 2021a Definition of hopeful https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hopeful. [accessed 12 Jul 202]

  • Merriam-Webster 2021b Definition of hopelessness https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hopelessness. [accessed 14 May 2021]

  • Milligan, C, Gatrell, A & Bingley, A. 2004 Cultivating health: Therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England Soc Sci Med. 58 1781 1793 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(03)00397-6

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mora, C, McKinzie, T, Gaw, IM, Dean, JM, Von Hammerstein, H, Knudson, TA, Setter, RO, Smith, CZ, Webster, KM, Patz, JA & Franklin, EC. 2022 Over half of known human pathogenic diseases can be aggravated by climate change Nat Clim Chang. 12 869 875 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01426-1

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moore, SL. 2005 Hope makes a difference J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 12 100 105 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2850.2004.00802.x

  • Noymer, A. 2008 Alpha, significance level of test 18 Lavrakas, PJ Encyclopedia of survey research methods. Sage Publishing Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Garden Association 2021 National gardening survey 2021 edition https://gardenresearch.com/view/national-gardening-survey-2021-edition/. [accessed 24 Oct 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Institute of Mental Health 2022 Major depression https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • O’Byrne, L, Gavin, B, Adamis, D, Lim, YX & McNicholas, F. 2021 Levels of stress in medical students due to COVID-19 J Med Ethics. 47 383 388 https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2020-107155

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Perry, BL, Harp, KL & Oser, CB. 2013 Racial and gender discrimination in the stress process: Implications for African American women’s health and well-being Sociol Perspect. 56 25 48

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Phillips, JL. 2016 What is the breakdown of Facebook users by age? https://smallbusiness.chron.com/breakdown-facebook-users-age-63280.html. [accessed 17 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pleeging, E & Burger, M. 2020 Hope in economics 165 178 Van den Heuvel, SC Historical and multidisciplinary perspectives on hope. Springer International Publishing New York, NY, USA https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46489-9_9

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roe, JJ, Thompson, CW, Aspinall, PA, Brewer, MJ, Duff, EI, Miller, D, Mitchell, R & Clow, A. 2013 Green space and stress: Evidence from cortisol measures in deprived urban communities Int J Environ Res Public Health. 10 4086 4103 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10094086

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schrock, DS, Meyer, M, Ascher, P & Snyder, M. 1999 Missouri master gardener demographics. J Ext. 37(5):5RIB4 https://archives.joe.org/joe/1999october/rb4.php. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Selye, H. 1976 Stress in health and disease Butterworth Stoneham, MA

  • Sia, A, Yok Tan, P, Wong, J, Araib, S, Ang, W & Er, K. 2022 The impact of gardening on mental resilience in times of stress: A case study during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snyder, CR. 1995 Conceptualizing, measuring, and nurturing hope J Couns Dev. 73 355 360 https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1995.tb01764.x

  • Sommerfeld, AJ, Waliczek, TM & Zajicek, JM. 2010 Growing minds: Evaluating the effect of gardening on quality of life and physical activity level of older adults HortTechnology. 20 705 710 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.20.4.705

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Takle, B, Haynes, C & Schrock, D. 2017 Using demographic survey results to target Master Gardener volunteer recruitment. J Ext. 55(3):v55-3rb8 https://archives.joe.org/joe/2017june/rb8.php. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ulrich, RS, Simons, RF, Losito, BD, Fiorito, E, Miles, MA & Zelson, M. 1991 Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments J Environ Psychol. 11 201 230 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80184-7

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Umucu, E & Lee, B. 2020 Examining the impact of COVID-19 on stress and coping strategies in individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions Rehabil Psychol. 65 193 198 https://doi.org/10.1037/rep0000328

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • US Department of Labor 2020 The employment situation – July 2020 https://www.employnm.com/post/bureau-of-labor-statistics-state-employment-and-unemployment-july-2020. [accessed 21 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Den Berg, AE & Custers, MHG. 2011 Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress J Health Psychol. 16 3 11 https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310365577

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wang, C, Pan, R, Wan, X, Tan, Y, Xu, L, Ho, C & Ho, R. 2020 Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China Int J Environ Res Public Health. 17 1 25 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051729

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wang, C, Tee, M, Roy, AE, Fardin, MA, Srichokchatchawan, W, Habib, HA, Tran, B, Hussain, S, Hoang, MT, Le, XT, Ma, W, Pham, HQ, Shirazi, M, Taneepanichskul, N, Tan, Y, Tee, C, Xu, L, Xu, Z, Vu, GT, Zhou, G, Koh, BJ, McIntyre, RS, Ho, C, Ho, RC & Kuruchittham, V. 2021 The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health of Asians: A study of seven middle-income countries in Asia https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0246824&type=printable. [accessed 16 Jul 2022]

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Waliczek, TM, Mattson, RH & Zajicek, JM. 1996 Psychological benefits of community gardening J Environ Hortic. 14 204 209 https://doi.org/10.24266/0738-2898-14.4.204

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Waliczek, TM, Zajicek, JM & Lineberger, RD. 2005 The influence of gardening activities on consumer perceptions of life satisfaction HortScience. 40 1360 1365 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.40.5.1360

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • World Health Organization 2020 Novel coronavirus (2019-NCoV) Situation Report - 3: 23 January 2020 https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation- reports/20200123-sitrep-3-2019-ncov.pdf? sfvrsn=d6d23643_8. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

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  • World Health Organization 2022 United States of America: WHO coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard with vaccination data https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us. [accessed 8 Dec 2022]

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Makayla Johnson Department of Sustainability Studies, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA

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Tina Marie Waliczek Department of Agricultural Sciences, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA

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Coleman Etheredge Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39762, USA

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Jennifer Campbell Bradley School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, University of Mount Olive, Mount Olive, NC 28365, USA

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Contributor Notes

T.M.W. is the corresponding author. E-mail: tc10@txstate.edu.

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