Lettuce Be Happy: The Effects of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Subjective Well-Being in the UK

30 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2018 Last revised: 5 Dec 2018

See all articles by Neel Ocean

Neel Ocean

University of Warwick

Peter Howley

University of Leeds - Faculty of Business

Jonathan Ensor

University of York

Date Written: July 11, 2018


The importance of better understanding ways to improve mental health, and subjective well-being more generally, is an issue that is gaining increased prominence among public health professionals in the Western world. Cognitive behavioural therapy and pharmaceutical treatments are the primary interventions used currently by public health practitioners to improve mental health and well-being. While the role of diet in influencing physical health is now well-established, some recent research suggests that diet could also play a role in improving subjective well-being. A limitation with much of this existing research is its reliance on cross-sectional correlations, convenience samples and/or lack of adequate controls. In this study, we present evidence using the UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS) that subjective well-being responds in a dose-response fashion to increases in fruit and vegetable consumption. We take advantage of the longitudinal nature of the UKHLS by employing panel data analytical techniques (i.e. following the same individuals over time) and also controlling for time-variant confounders such as diet, health and lifestyle behaviours. Apart from being significant in a statistical sense, our estimates suggest that even modest increases in the consumption of fruit and vegetables could have comparable well-being effects to that of many big-hitting life events. Our findings, therefore, provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruits and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long-run, but also their mental well-being in the short-run.

Keywords: UK, Subjective well-being, GHQ-12, fruit and vegetables, diet, UKHLS, panel data

Suggested Citation

Ocean, Neel and Howley, Peter and Ensor, Jonathan, Lettuce Be Happy: The Effects of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Subjective Well-Being in the UK (July 11, 2018). Leeds University Business School Working Paper No. 18-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3211798 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3211798

Neel Ocean

University of Warwick

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Peter Howley (Contact Author)

University of Leeds - Faculty of Business ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Jonathan Ensor

University of York ( email )

University of York
York, YO10 5DD
United Kingdom

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