Can money buy you happiness? That old question is a little bit of a trick, since everyone sort of innately knows that true happiness can’t be bought but, of course, a lack of money is a source of deep anxiety and frustration for millions of people. Yes, money definitely plays a role in our mental health but new research suggests it may play less of a role than we thought. In fact, physical exercise may play an even bigger role than money.
Yale and Oxford teamed up for a study of 1.2 million Americans and found that people who regularly exercise are happier than those who don’t, regardless of their financial situation.
The study, which was published in Lancet, found that people who maintain an active lifestyle have an average of 35 bad mental health days a year. Those who are less active report an average of 53 bad mental health days. This held true across all financial brackets.
Obviously, there are outliers. Mental health is complicated and issues like clinical depression and anxiety can’t be cured by the treadmill alone. In fact, the study found there can be such a thing as too much exercise as far as mental health is concerned. But in the quest towards a better understanding of how we can influence our mental health on a day-to-day basis, the study represents a major finding.
“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and there is an urgent need to find ways to improve mental health through population health campaigns,” said Adam Chekroud, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Chief Scientist at Spring Health, USA, and the study’s senior author. “Exercise is associated with a lower mental health burden across people no matter their age, race, gender, household income and education level.”
So there’s no silver bullet for depression. But for anyone struggling, there’s no harm in lacing up your running shoes or hitting the gym.