By Ellie Teng ‘21
Fruits and vegetables have always been linked to good physical health, but results from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey demonstrate a positive association between fruits and vegetables, and psychological well being. Controlling for diet, health, and lifestyle, researchers found a clear relationship between the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed and mental state.
In conducting the survey, researchers identified the three most important questions that allowed them to best evaluate the frequency of consumption in the public: “On a day that you eat fruits or vegetables, how many total portions do you usually eat?” as well as two separate questions dealing with consumptions per week.
The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) was then used to measure the mental well being of the individuals. The scores of the GHQ-12 were reversed so that a higher level of reversed GHQ-12 corresponded to higher level of mental well-being. The numbers were put into an equation as a regression analysis to determine the relationship between the quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed and mental health, and the relationship between frequency and mental health was shown through three waves of data. After confounding variables were taken into account, scientists found that the more often fruits and vegetables were consumed, the higher the mental state of the individual. An individual who went from consuming vegetables daily to consuming none would result in a decrease in psychological health, estimated to almost equate the suffering resulting from becoming widowed or unemployed.
By analyzing and interpreting the correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and mental well-being, scientists can provide members of the public the information they need to make life altering choices.
- N. Ocean, et. al., Lettuce be happy: a longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being. Social Science & Medicine 222, 335-345 (2019). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.12.017.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/sliced-fruit-stall-709817/