New research out of the University of Kent and University of Reading in the United Kingdom has come to a fairly obvious, if boring and annoying, conclusion: regularly exercising and consuming high amounts of fruits and vegetables can make you happier. The study confirms positive causation between lifestyle and life satisfaction.
A press release in ScienceDaily about the research states that it’s “the first of its kind to unravel the causation of how happiness, the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercising are related, rather than generalising a correlation.”
The researchers, Dr. Adelina Gschwandter, Professor Uma Kambhampati, and Dr. Sarah Jewell, looked at UK Understanding Society Data, a set of data that covers 40,000 UK households over time from 2009 to today.
The researchers used wave 5 of the UK Household Longitudinal Study, and data from the general population because that wave of research was where “the delayed gratification questions are asked alongside the fruit/veg and sports activity questions.” The researchers used data from about 14,000 individuals — almost 6,000 men and a little over 8,000 of women.
The researchers then looked at how two “measures of lifestyle” — eating fruits and veggies and exercising — had an effect on well-being overall.
Not only did they find that being able to delay gratification had a major role in influencing the ability to make healthy lifestyle choices — which has a good impact on physical and mental wellbeing — they also found that both “fruit and vegetable consumption and sports activity increases life satisfaction”, though differently for men and women.
Men were more likely to exercise and women were more likely to eat healthily. They also say that the results are robust to all different identity segments from religious affiliation, education level, income brackets, and more.
There are clear limitations to the study, however. Researchers point to the fact that exercise and consumption of fruit and vegetables, though key components of a healthy lifestyle, are just a small factor — and suggest that “more precise measures of exercise” like whether someone walks or runs or lifts weights, and measurements of other habits like if a person smokes, or drinks, could provide more data to the study.
The same is true of eating habits, as there is far more to eating healthy than just eating carrots and apples. Personality and genetic factors could also play a role in people’s healthy lifestyle habits and how they’re able to delay gratification, but the study couldn’t measure those factors. And the researchers only looked at data from people at one point in time instead of following them over a number of years, which could have yielded more insights.
Still, the research is significant in that it does show positive causation between investing in health and overall happiness. So go grab that bowl of carrots. It seems like it’ll help you be happy.