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Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?

  • David G. Blanchflower
  • Andrew J. Oswald
  • Sarah Stewart-Brown

Humans run on a fuel called food. Yet economists and other social scientists rarely study what people eat. We provide simple evidence consistent with the existence of a link between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and high well-being. In cross-sectional data, happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables. The pattern is remarkably robust to adjustment for a large number of other demographic, social and economic variables. Well-being peaks at approximately 7 portions per day. We document this relationship in three data sets, covering approximately 80,000 randomly selected British individuals, and for seven measures of well-being (life satisfaction, WEMWBS mental well-being, GHQ mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and feeling low). Reverse causality and problems of confounding remain possible. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our analysis, how government policy-makers might wish to react to it, and what kinds of further research -- especially randomized trials -- would be valuable.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18469.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as David Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald & Sarah Stewart-Brown, 2013. "Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(3), pages 785-801, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18469
Note: HE LS
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  1. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Carol Propper & Kelvyn Jones & Anne Bolster & Simon Burgess & Ron Johnston & Rebecca Sarker, 2004. "Local Neighbourhood and Mental Health: Evidence from the UK," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 04/099, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
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  9. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2009. "What happens to people before and after disability? Focusing effects, lead effects, and adaptation in different areas of life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 1834-1844, December.
  10. Blanchflower, David G; Oswald, Andrew, 2011. "International Happiness," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 39, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  11. Carter, Kristie N. & Kruse, Kerri & Blakely, Tony & Collings, Sunny, 2011. "The association of food security with psychological distress in New Zealand and any gender differences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(9), pages 1463-1471, May.
  12. Dave, Dhaval M. & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2012. "How does the business cycle affect eating habits?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 254-262.
  13. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well-being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537.
  14. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  15. Cathy Farnworth, 2009. "Well-Being is a Process of Becoming: Respondent-Led Research With Organic Farmers in Madagascar," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 90(1), pages 89-106, January.
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