Fruit and vegetable consumption and exercise can directly increase levels of self-reported happiness, according to findings from a new study.
Public health campaigns encourage healthier diets and exercise by virtue of the well-studied link between lifestyle and wellbeing, and will benefit from new findings published by the Journal of Happiness Studies showing that there is also a positive causation from lifestyle to life satisfaction.
This research is the first to identify the causation of happiness, the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercising are related, rather than generalising a correlation. The researchers, Dr Adelina Gschwandtner (Kent’s School of Economics), Dr Sarah Jewell and Professor Uma Kambhampati (both from the University of Reading’s School of Economics), used an instrumental variable approach to filter out any effect from happiness to lifestyle. This approach revealed that it is the effect of fruit and vegetables and exercising that makes people happy and not the other way round.
The findings show individuals’ ability to delay gratification and apply self-control plays a major role in influencing lifestyle decisions, which in turn has a positive impact on wellbeing. The research also shows that men appear to exercise more, and women eat more fruit and vegetables.
Dr Gschwandtner said: ‘Behavioural nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it is a clear win-win situation.’
Professor Kambhampati said: ‘There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices. To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development. This may also prove useful for policy campaigns around environment and sustainability.’
Source: University of Kent