At Prima, we are well aware of the positive impact of knitting, from keeping us calm to creating beautiful handmade gifts for family and friends – but did you know this craft can have multiple health benefits too?

A study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden published earlier this year has suggested that knitting can be beneficial for people living with mental health issues.

“Knitters have a creative leisure interest that can also help them to cope with life and so improve their mental health. I’m convinced that this is part of the reason why so many people have taken up knitting these days,” said Joanna Nordstrand, one of the authors of the study, who is an occupational therapist and Ph.D. student at the Swedish university.

For the study, Joanna reviewed 600 posts from the online forum Ravelry, where knitting fans gather to discuss their hobby. The results were recently published in the Journal of Occupational Science.

The research highlighted three ways in which knitting may boost wellbeing. As a hobby, knitting helps people to unwind and offers them an identity as a knitter. Knitting can also bring structure to people’s lives, which may improve their mental health.

Some of the knitters studied also noticed a change in their mental processes, saying that when they were knitting, their thinking became clearer and easier to manage.

One said: "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."

Benefits of knitting

Living Well UK, a leading mental health charity, offers “crafternoons” which include knit and natter groups, as knitting and other crafts are shown to offer social connection, not only through craft groups or classes, but by also being a conversational topic.

Holly Beedon, Clinical Lead at Living Well UK, believes that there are numerous benefits to knitting, both physical and mental, with it being particularly beneficial for those dealing with anxiety, depression and social isolation.

She told Prima: “The repetitive nature of knitting can induce a state of relaxation similar to that of meditation, as well as allowing for the refocusing of attention, making it a good distraction from negative emotions.

“For people with depression, knitting can offer a sense of purpose and accomplishment from completing projects, making it a brilliant way to combat the feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem that are often associated with depression.”

She added: “Knitting has the potential to alleviate social isolation through its ability to build community. Participating in knitting groups, or knitting communities online, can provide a sense of belonging and foster social interactions."

Earlier this year, a report by Knit for Peace, looked into the health benefits of the hobby, especially for the elderly. The organisation also surveyed 1,000 knitters to find out whether it had improved their lives.

“There is a surprisingly large body of research showing the health benefits of knitting,” the report reveals. “What is more surprising is how little known this research is. Our experience suggests, however, knitting is not well perceived as a potential preventative and treatment measure.”

The report claimed knitting to be as relaxing as yoga and a great opportunity for creativity. It also linked knitting to:

  • Reducing depression and anxiety
  • Distracting from chronic pain
  • Increasing a sense of wellbeing
  • Reducing loneliness and isolation
  • Increasing sense of usefulness and inclusion in society

When surveying its members, 67% of whom are over 60, the organisation found the majority of those in poor or very poor health said they felt knitting improved their health.

Additionally, 82% said knitting relaxed them and 65% of said knitting for others made them feel useful.

In a 2012 study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that older people who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a reduced chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.

Convenience of knitting

And for those who wonder how convenient knitting is as an activity? “It’s very accessibility is a benefit, needing little equipment, as are its portability and its flexibility,” Knit for Peace says.

“It can be picked up and put down, with little preparation beyond finding a chair, and can be fitted into odd moments between other activities. It involves no clearing up. It can be done whilst watching television or listening to the radio.”

If you need some inspiration head to Prima's online knitting section to find free patterns and lots of how-to guides for beginners and improvers.

Do you love knitting? Share your creations with us by tagging @primamag in your pictures on Instagram!

2024-02-28T11:41:35Z dg43tfdfdgfd