Overview: Laboratory studies found that hunger was associated with increased irritability and stronger feelings of anger, along with a decrease in feelings of pleasure.
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
New scientific research has found that feeling hungry can actually make us “hungry,” with emotions such as anger and irritability strongly linked to hunger.
Published in the magazine PLOS ONEthe study is the first to examine how hunger affects people’s emotions from day to day.
Hangry, a portmanteau of hungry and angry, is widely used in everyday language, but the phenomenon has not been widely explored by science outside of laboratory settings.
The new study, led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the United Kingdom and the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, found that hunger is associated with greater levels of anger and irritability, as well as lower levels of pleasure.
The researchers recruited 64 adult participants from central Europe, who recorded their hunger levels and various measures of emotional well-being over a 21-day period.
Participants were asked to report their feelings and their hunger levels on a smartphone app five times a day, so that data collection could take place in the participants’ everyday environments, such as their workplace and home.
The results show that hunger is associated with stronger feelings of anger and irritability, as well as lower ratings of pleasure, and the effects were significant even after taking into account demographic factors such as age and gender, body mass index, feeding behavior and individual personality traits.
Hunger was associated with 37% of the variance in irritability, 34% of the variance in anger, and 38% of the variance in pleasure recorded by the participants.
The study also found that the negative emotions — irritability, anger and unpleasantness — are caused by both daily fluctuations in hunger and residual hunger levels measured by averages over the three-week period.
Lead author of the study Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “Many of us are aware that hunger can influence our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has focused on ‘hangry’.
“Our study is the first study to investigate whether you are ‘hangry’ outside a lab. By following people in their daily lives, we found that hunger was linked to levels of anger, irritability and pleasure.
“While our research doesn’t offer ways to mitigate negative hunger-induced emotions, research suggests that being able to name an emotion can help people regulate it, for example by recognizing that we are angry simply because we are hungry. greater awareness of ‘hangry’ may reduce the likelihood that hunger will result in negative emotions and behaviors in individuals.”
The fieldwork was conducted by Stefan Stieger, professor of psychology at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences. Professor Stieger said: “This ‘hangry’ effect has not been analyzed in detail, so we took a field-based approach where participants were invited to respond to prompts to complete short surveys on an app. They received these prompts five times a day on semi-random occasions over a three-week period.
“This allowed us to generate intensive longitudinal data in a way that is not possible with traditional laboratory research.
“While this approach requires a lot of effort – not only for participants but also for researchers in designing such studies – the results offer a high degree of generalizability compared to laboratory studies, giving us a much more complete picture of how people perceive the emotional consequences of hunger in their daily lives.”
About this hunger research news
Original research: The findings appear in PLOS ONE