Summary: Eating fruits and vegetables and exercising makes people happier, not the other way around, according to a new study. Increased happiness was associated with eating more fruits and vegetables in women and more physical activity in men.
Source: University of Kent
New research from the University of Kent and the University of Reading has found that eating fruit and vegetables and getting exercise can boost happiness levels.
While the link between lifestyle and well-being has already been documented and often used in public health campaigns to encourage healthier eating and exercise, new findings published by the Journal of Happiness Studies show that there is also a positive causality between lifestyle and life satisfaction.
This research is the first of its kind to unravel the causality of the relationship between happiness, fruit and vegetable consumption and exercise, rather than generalizing 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 way of life.
She showed that it is rather the consumption of fruits and vegetables and exercise that makes people happy and not the other way around.
The results demonstrate that individuals’ ability to delay gratification and apply self-control play a major role in influencing lifestyle decisions, which in turn positively impacts well-being. Research also shows that men seem to exercise more and women eat more fruits and vegetables.
As it is well known that lifestyle-related diseases are a major cause of ill health and death worldwide, and the UK has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, these results could have important implications for public health policy.
Dr Gschwandtner said: “Behavioral nudges that help the planner reinforce long-term goals are likely to be particularly helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it’s a win-win situation.
Professor Kambhampati said: “There has been a bigger shift in recent years towards healthier lifestyle choices. Establishing that eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness while providing health benefits is a major development. It can also be useful for political campaigns around the environment and sustainability.
About This Diet, Exercise, and Happiness Research News
Author: Olivia Miller
Source: University of Kent
Contact: Olivia Miller – University of Kent
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“Lifestyle and life satisfaction: the role of delayed gratification” by Adelina Gschwandtner et al. Journal of Happiness Studies
Lifestyle and life satisfaction: the role of delayed gratification
This article examines the impact of two lifestyle measures – fruit and vegetable consumption and physical exercise – on individual well-being.
Since lifestyle is likely to be endogenous, we correct for this by using two dimensions of delayed gratification as instruments.
The ability to delay gratification allows individuals to place more weight on the investment component of lifestyle decisions rather than just the affective component.
Our analysis is based on UK Understanding Society Data, which covers 40,000 UK households over time.
We find that both delayed gratification instruments are positive and significant in influencing lifestyle. In stage 2, we find that fruit and vegetable consumption and sports activity increase life satisfaction, although the impacts vary for men and women.
These results are robust across income quartiles, region, gender, education, and age groups.
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