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

  • Blanchflower, David G.

    (Dartmouth College USA)

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    (University of Warwick and CAGE UK and IZA Germany)

  • Stewart-Brown, Sarah

    (Warwick Medical School UK)

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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File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2012/twerp_996.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 996.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:996
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  1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  2. Shelton, Nicola Jane, 2009. "Regional risk factors for health inequalities in Scotland and England and the "Scottish effect"," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 761-767, September.
  3. Blanchflower, David G; Oswald, Andrew, 2011. "International Happiness," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 39, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  4. Propper, Carol & Jones, Kelvyn & Bolster, Anne & Burgess, Simon & Johnston, Ron & Sarker, Rebecca, 2005. "Local neighbourhood and mental health: Evidence from the UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(10), pages 2065-2083, November.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Is Well-Being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," IZA Discussion Papers 3075, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Carol Graham, 2005. "Insights on Development from the Economics of Happiness," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 20(2), pages 201-231.
  9. Dhaval M. Dave & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2010. "How Does the Business Cycle Affect Eating Habits?," NBER Working Papers 16638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  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. Shields, Michael A. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2001. "Exploring the Economic and Social Determinants of Psychological and Psychosocial Health," IZA Discussion Papers 396, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Ed Diener, 1994. "Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 103-157, February.
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