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Exercise, Healthy Eating Have Bigger Emotional Payoff for Low-Income Americans.

October 21, 2012|Counseling & Psychotherapy

A study looking at how exercise and heathy eating impact emotional functioning and mood shows that lower income American's get a bigger psychological boost from these habits than their higher income counterparts.

Compared to higher income counterparts, lower income Americans who exercised and ate produce regularly reported:

  • Greater feelings of happiness
  • More frequent smiling, laughing and feelings of enjoyment
  • Greater reduction in feelings of sadness
  • Greater reduction in diagnoses of depression

Importantly, both high and low-income participants who exercised regularly reported lower levels of stress.


Excerpt from article:

Although all Americans report better emotional health when they exercise frequently and eat fruits and vegetables regularly, low-income Americans experience an even bigger emotional boost from practicing these good health habits than do those at higher income levels.

These findings are based on 180,299 interviews with American adults conducted between Jan. 2 and July 8, 2012, as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Emotional Health Index score is based on Americans’ self-reports of positive and negative daily emotions, as well as self-reported clinical diagnoses of depression. Specifically, Americans are asked whether they felt or did “a lot of” each of the following the day before the survey: smiling/laughing, learning/doing something interesting, being treated with respect, enjoyment, happiness, worry, sadness, anger, and stress.

Low-income Americans experience greater improvement across almost all of the items in the Emotional Health Index when they exercise frequently and eat produce regularly than do those who are at a higher income level. For example, low-income adults who exercise three or more days per week are about seven percentage points more likely than their counterparts who exercise less than that to report experiencing happiness “a lot of the day yesterday.” This compares to about a four-percentage-point increase for high-income adults who exercise frequently versus those who don’t. Low-income Americans experience a bigger exercise “bonus” than do those with higher incomes in terms of daily smiling and laughter, enjoyment, and happiness.

Low-income Americans who exercise frequently also see a greater reduction in daily sadness and clinical diagnoses of depression than do those with higher incomes. However, Americans who exercise frequently at all income levels see an equal decrease is daily worry, and it is actually those making $90,000 or more per year who see the greatest stress reduction from routine exercise.

via In U.S., Exercise Has Bigger Emotional Payoff for Low-Income.

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