The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index of 180,299 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 2 to July 8 found low-income Americans experienced greater improvement across almost all of the items in the Emotional Health Index when they exercised frequently and ate produce regularly than do those at a higher income level.
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.
For example, low-income adults who exercised three or more days per week were about 7 percentage points more likely than their counterparts who exercise less than that to report experiencing happiness a lot of the previous day, compared with a 4 percentage-point increase for high-income adults.
U.S. adults at all income brackets who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week reported widespread emotional health benefits, but it is particularly evident in those earning less than $36,000 per year.
For example, low-income Americans who consume produce regularly are 3.9 points less likely to experience sadness "a lot of the day yesterday" than are their counterparts who didn't, compared with a decline of 1.9 points for those with annual incomes of $36,000 to $89,999 and -0.8 points for those making $90,000 or more per year.
The survey had a margin of error of 0.3 percentage points.