Cross-sectional associations of schoolchildren’s fruit and vegetable consumption, and meal choices, with their mental well-being: a cross-sectional study

Richard Hayhoe, Boika Rechel, Allan Clark, Claire Gummerson, S. J. Louise Smith, Ailsa Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Poor mental well-being is a major issue for young people and is likely to have long-term negative consequences. The contribution of nutrition is underexplored. We, therefore, investigated the association between dietary choices and mental well-being among schoolchildren.

Methods: Data from 7570 secondary school and 1253 primary school children in the Norfolk Children and Young People Health and Well-being Survey, open to all Norfolk schools during October 2017, were analysed. Multivariable linear regression was used to measure the association between nutritional factors and mental well-being assessed by the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale for secondary school pupils, or the Stirling Children’s Well-being Scale for primary school pupils. We adjusted all analyses for important covariates including demographic, health variables, living/home situation and adverse experience variables.

Results: In secondary school analyses, a strong association between nutritional variables and well-being scores was apparent. Higher combined fruit and vegetable consumption was significantly associated with higher well-being: well-being scores were 3.73 (95% CI 2.94 to 4.53) units higher in those consuming five or more fruits and vegetables (p<0.001; n=1905) compared with none (n=739). The type of breakfast or lunch consumed was also associated with significant differences in well-being score. Compared with children consuming a conventional type of breakfast (n=5288), those not eating any breakfast had mean well-being scores 2.73 (95% CI 2.11 to 3.35) units lower (p<0.001; n=1129) and those consuming only an energy drink had well-being scores 3.14 (95% CI 1.20 to 5.09) units lower (p=0.002; n=91). Likewise, children not eating any lunch had well-being scores 2.95 (95% CI 2.22 to 3.68) units lower (p<0.001; 860) than those consuming a packed lunch (n=3744). In primary school analyses, the type of breakfast or lunch was associated with significant differences in well-being scores in a similar way to those seen in secondary school data, although no significant association with fruit and vegetable intake was evident.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that public health strategies to optimise the mental well-being of children should include promotion of good nutrition.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health
Volume4
Issue number2
Early online date27 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2021

Cite this