This is something that most knitters already know in their hearts, even without the benefit of medical research to back the assertion up. However, I stumbled upon an old BBC News report today which stated that researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota studied almost 200 people aged between 70 and 89 who had mild memory problems to see if any benefits could be had from having a hobby. They also asked the participants how active they had been in their 50s and 60s in relation to their hobby.
It turns out that those who have a hobby such as knitting (although other hobbies like doing crosswords and other cognitive exercises are just as effective) have a reduced likelihood of memory loss as they age.
I belong to a knitting club where I work. Once a week we gather with our yarns, needles and lunches and engage in mutual appreciation of each other's latest projects. Personally, I know it helps me release some of the stress built up during that morning and means those I deal with in the afternoon are less likely to feel the sharp end of my tongue!
This week, we were evicted from our usual meeting room and so set up camp in a corner of the company restaurant. This made us way more visible, and one or two people wandered over to take a look at our craft. One guy I work with sat with us for half an hour or so and chatted while we knitted. At the end of his lunch break, he said how much calmer he felt, and how there was something very soothing just being around people who knit.
I've heard this said before. Knitting is not only therapeutic for the knitter, it also helps those in the same room or in the immediate vicinity. It would be interesting to monitor the heart rate or blood pressure of those who live with knitters against those who don't.
Now that knitting needles have been banned from air travel, I wonder if more people are having to resort to mild tranquilisers or a stiff drink, where previously they would have been able to lose themselves in stitches instead. People often look at knitting needles as objects that could do harm rather than items to be used for good. Knitting is rarely taught in schools today because of "health and safety" issues. I suspect it is more because the teachers can't knit themselves and don't want the responsibility of 30 kids with miniature javelins in their hands. That is a shame though, because knitting can help those with ADHD and other cognitive disabilities, as well as covering mathematics, reading, design and technology and even history if you pitch the lesson right.
There is nothing harmful in knitting. It is a cheap and easy way to occupy anyone for an hour or so each day. Give it a try and see if you feel less stressed afterwards.