WILL HEALTHY EATING MAKE YOU HAPPIER?
A research synthesis using an online findings-archive
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands,
Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization EHERO
Accepted for publication in Applied Research in Quality of Life, June 2019
Background: Healthy eating adds to health and thereby contributes to a longer life, but will it also add to a happier life? Some people do not like healthy food, and since we spend a considerable amount of our life eating, healthy eating could make their life less enjoyable.
Objectives: Is there such a trade-off between healthy eating and happiness? Or instead a trade-on, healthy eating adding to happiness? Or do the positive and negative effects balance? If there is an effect of healthy eating on happiness, is that effect similar for everybody? If not, what kind of people profit from healthy eating happiness wise and what kind of people do not? If healthy eating does add to happiness, does it add linearly or is there some optimum for healthy ingredients in one’s diet?
Method: I considered the results published in 20 research reports on the relation between nutrition and happiness, which together yielded 47 findings. I reviewed these findings, using a new technique. The findings were entered in an online ‘findings archive’, the World Database of Happiness, each described in a standardized format on a separate ‘findings page’ with a unique internet address. In this paper, I use links to these finding pages and this allows me to summarize the main trends in the findings in a few tabular schemes.
Results: Together, the findings provide strong evidence of a causal effect of healthy eating on happiness. Surprisingly, this effect is not fully mediated by better health. This pattern seems to be universal; the available studies show only minor variations across people, times and places. More than three portions of fruits and vegetables per day goes with the most happiness, how many more for what kind of persons is not yet established.
Keywords: happiness, health behaviour, diet, research synthesis