Objectives: To explore whether improvements in psychological well-being occur after increases in fruit and vegetable consumption.
Methods: We examined longitudinal food diaries of 12 385 randomly sampled Australian adults over 2007, 2009, and 2013 in the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. We adjusted effects on incident changes in happiness and life satisfaction for people's changing incomes and personal circumstances.
Results: Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. They were up to 0.24 life-satisfaction points (for an increase of 8 portions a day), which is equal in size to the psychological gain of moving from unemployment to employment. Improvements occurred within 24 months.
Conclusions: People's motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical health benefits accrue decades later, but well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate.
Policy implications: Citizens could be shown evidence that "happiness" gains from healthy eating can occur quickly and many years before enhanced physical health.