A better lifestyle leads to happiness, not the other way around

New research from the University of Kent and the University of Reading has found that eating fruits and vegetables and exercising can increase levels of happiness.

While the link between lifestyle and wellness 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 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 School of Economics at the University of Reading), used an instrumental variable approach to filter out any effects. ranging from happiness to lifestyle. He has shown that it is more fruit and vegetables and exercise that make people happy. and not the other way around.

The results demonstrate that the ability of individuals to delay gratification and apply self-control plays a major role in influencing lifestyle decisions, which in turn has a positive impact on 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 one of the leading causes of ill health and death in the world and that the UK has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe , these results could have important implications for public health policy.

Dr Gschwandtner said: “Behavioral nudges that help self-planning to 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 this is clearly 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 prove useful for political campaigns around the environment and sustainability. ‘


Gschwandtner A, Jewell S, Kambhampati US. Lifestyle and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Deferred Gratification. J Happiness Stud. Published online August 20, 2021. doi: 10.1007 / s10902-021-00440-y

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