A new study led by the University of Kent and the University of Reading found that eating fruits and vegetables and exercising can boost happiness levels.
While the link between lifestyle and happiness has been well-documented and is frequently used in public health campaigns to encourage healthier diets and exercise, new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies shows that there is also a positive causal relationship between lifestyle and life satisfaction.
First of its kind, this research examines the causal relationship between happiness and consumption of fruits and vegetables and physical activity, rather than generalizing correlations. Dr. Adelina Gschwandtner (Kent’s School of Economics), Dr. Sarah Jewell (University of Reading’s School of Economics), and Professor Uma Kambhampati (both University of Reading’s School of Economics) employed an instrumental variable technique to filter out any effect from happiness to lifestyle. It was discovered that it is the ingestion of fruits and vegetables, as well as physical activity, that makes people happy, not the other way around.
The findings show that people’s ability to defer pleasure and exercise self-control has a significant impact on lifestyle decisions, which in turn has a good impact on wellbeing. Men appear to exercise more, but women eat more fruits and vegetables, according to the study.
These findings could have important consequences for public health policy, given that lifestyle diseases are the main cause of ill health and mortality worldwide and the UK has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe.
Dr. Gschwandtner stated: ‘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 fruits 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.’