Adelina Gschwandtner collaborates with Sarah Jewell and Uma Kambhampati on this paper, Lifestyle and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Delayed
Gratifcation, accepted for publication in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
It is well known that lifestyle diseases are the leading causes of ill health and mortality worldwide (WHO 2012) and that despite of several efforts and health campaigns the UK is one of the countries with the highest obesity rates in Europe.
Although a large body literature indicates that lifestyle has a significant impact on the physical health of individuals, the effect of lifestyle on emotional well-being and happiness is less well studied. Analysing this impact is important because if a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier than it is more likely to be adopted.
Adelina Gschwandtner collaborates with Sarah Jewell and Uma Kambhampati on this study examining the impact of two measures of lifestyle – the consumption of fruit and vegetables and taking exercise – on happiness. Gschwandtner is particularly proud of this publication as it took almost eight years to find valid instruments.
‘One of the main problems with studies of happiness is to determine the direction of causation,’ she told us ‘ It could very well be that those who have better lifestyles may be happier, but it is also possible that those who are happier will adopt better lifestyles.’
‘With regard to exercise there is clear evidence that the release of endorphins during sport activities makes people happier and hence a direction of causation from exercise to happiness is well established. This is not so in the case for fruit and vegetables. Many studies show that happiness and consumption of fruit and vegetables are related but none solves the causation issue. In the present study we use a method called ‘instrumental variable approach’ that helps us disentangle this. We ‘instrument’ lifestyle with a measure of delayed gratification, which asks individuals how successful they are in sticking with diets and in maintaining a longer-term perspective to the benefits of consumption. By doing this, we are able to filter out any effect from happiness to lifestyle and to show that it is rather the consumption of fruit and vegetables that makes people happy and not the other way round.This is relevant for policy implications but also because if a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it is a clear win-win situation!’