Low mental wellbeing is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental wellbeing is more than the absence of symptoms or illness; it is a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, and good relationships with others are all part of this state. Mental wellbeing is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.
The data suggest that higher an individuals fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing, said lead author Dr. Saverio Stranges. Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with low and high mental wellbeing. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental wellbeing in the general population.
The research was part of the Health Survey for England, which oversaw detailed information collected on mental and physical health, health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics. The research conducted by the University of Warwicks Medical School using data from the Health Survey for England involved 14,000 participants in England that were 16 years old or over; 56 percent were female and 44 percent were male. The research revealed:
- 33.5 percent of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day compared with only 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion
- 31.4 percent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three or four portions
- 28.4 percent ate one to two portions
Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer, Stranges added.