When I was a boy, out of necessity, I learned that active fingers and hands reduced my anxiety. Hmm, knitting works calming wonders for folks around the globe. So let’s sink our needles into the yarn and see what we can make of it.

’The nurses were wanting to give me [an anti-anxiety medication] until I told them that I preferred knitting for the anxiety. She stopped, looked at me, and said, ‘That’s much healthier than drugs.’

I can count the number of times I’ve knitted on one hand. How ‘bout you? Are you a knitter?

Yes or no, lots of interesting and helpful info coming at you, so dig right in…

Intro

Let’s set the table with some choice tidbits from an article I bumped into on The Creatives Hour’s website: “15 Surprising & Interesting Knitting Statistics 2024.”

  • There are 53 million knitters in the United States, 7 million in the United Kingdom
  • Knitting and crocheting sales in the US in 2019 were $1.2 billion
  • 51% of knitters spend 8+ hours a week on a project
  • Knitting is the most relaxing hobby that everyone can take up
  • To relieve stress after a long day, knitters prefer grabbing their needles over zoning out on TV or having an alcoholic beverage
  • 88% of knitters feel less stress when knitting
  • Knitters have a lower heart rate by an average of 19% compared to participants in other activities
  • 40% of knitters use it for depression relief

How’s that for laying a solid foundation?

Knitting and mental illness: Calmness and structure

Okay, time to sink our needles into the yarn…

During an online browsing session I found this news release, dated March 15, 2024, from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden): “Knitting brings calmness and structure to the lives of people with mental illness.”

It details a study which was published in The Journal of Occupational Science. Its first author is occupational therapist and University of Gothenburg PhD candidate, Joanna Nordstrand.

As the title of the news release implies, the study shows that knitting, described as a way of bringing a sense of calm and giving life structure, is beneficial for people living with emotional and mental health issues.

A way of coping with life

From Ms. Nordstrand, who happens to be a knitter…

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,

What makes this study unique is that it explores what people enduring emotional and mental health problems say – in their own words – regarding what knitting means to their health.

The study team collected 600 posts from Ravelry, a free online forum for knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists. The posts were analyzed using established qualitative content analysis methods.

The benefits of knitting

The results of the study revealed three primary ways in which knitting supports improved emotional and mental health.

  1. Enables people to unwind
  2. As a hobby, it offers an identity as a knitter and a low-stakes social context
  3. It can bring structure to people’s lives

Study participants noted improvement in their short and long-term health due to believing their knitting is a highly appreciated occupation.

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

Ms. Nordstrand…

The aim of the occupational therapist is to get people’s lives working. There’s potential in needles and yarn that the health system shouldn’t ignore!

Participant comments

See if these participant comments hit home. I think they speak well for the benefits of knitting…

Regarding meds replacement

The nurses were wanting to give me [an anti-anxiety medication] until I told them that I preferred knitting for the anxiety. She stopped, looked at me, and said, ‘That’s much healthier than drugs.’ Ya think?

Stress reduction

When my parents convinced me to go to the walk-in center at the hospital, I was knitting while I sat crying next to my mother in the waiting room. I carried on knitting all the way through the entire hour […]. I’ve now adjusted my medication but knitting is still my best tool for reducing stress.

Thought management

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.

Pretty cool, huh.

Power is at your fingertips

As a boy, there was a night that anxiety got in the way of falling asleep. I stumbled around in the dark and grabbed a pad and pencil – got back in bed and doodled ‘til I conked out.

That was my first lesson in the power of active fingers and hands.

If depression, anxiety, or stress frequently trouble you, reach for some needles and yarn. Power is at your fingertips.


Here’s the full release from the University of Gothenburg: “Knitting brings calmness and structure to the lives of people with mental illness

Be sure to check out 15 Surprising & Interesting Knitting Statistics 2024.”

Looking for more Chipur emotional and mental health info and inspiration articles? Peruse the titles.

Skip to content