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Are fruit and vegetables good for our mental and physical health? Panel data evidence from Australia

Mujcic, Redzo (2014): Are fruit and vegetables good for our mental and physical health? Panel data evidence from Australia.

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Abstract

This paper studies the effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on human well-being. Using individual-level panel data from a representative sample of Australian households, I estimate the intake of fruit and vegetables to have positive and statistically significant impacts on a wide range of subjective well-being measures, including life satisfaction, self-assessed health, mental health, psychological distress, and vitality. The estimated relationships are mainly non-monotonic in nature. For most well-being measures, the optimal consumption bundle consists of 4-5 daily portions of fruit and 4-5 daily portions of vegetables. The intake of fruit is predicted to have a greater relative impact (than vegetables) on overall mental health and psychological distress scores. There are also gender differences in the estimated effects, with the intake of fruit and vegetables increasing average happiness and self-reported health scores of women significantly more than that of men. Overall, the results imply that less than one-quarter of adults in Australia consume the optimal daily amount and mix of fruit and vegetables. I discuss the relevance of the findings for government policy-makers and health professionals, in reference to existing public health promotions and guidelines.

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