Being “Hangry” is Real: New Study Links Hunger to Negative Emotions

“Hangry” is a word that describes the feeling of anger or irritation when hungry and is widely used in our everyday language. To date, there has been little scientific research that focused on this notion. The new study shows a strong link between hunger and negative emotions.

The study, led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the U.K. 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.

Sixty-four adults from central Europe participated in the research. Over a 21-day period, they recorded their hunger levels and feelings of anger, irritability, pleasure, and arousal.

Participants reported their feelings and levels of hunger using a smartphone app five times a day while in their everyday environments.

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 research shows.

The effects of hunger were substantial even after taking into the account demographic factors such as age and sex, body mass index, dietary behavior, and individual personality traits.

“Although our study doesn’t present ways to mitigate negative hunger-induced emotions, research suggests that being able to label an emotion can help people to regulate it, such as by recognizing that we feel angry simply because we are hungry. Therefore, greater awareness of being ‘hangry’ could reduce the likelihood that hunger results in negative emotions and behaviors in individuals,” said Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at ARU.

Some experimental studies link low blood glucose level to negative emotions. In 2014 researchers found out that low glucose levels relates to greater aggression in married couples. Another study shows that states with high diabetes rates had high violent crime rates.

Resources:

Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect

Hunger really can make us feel ‘hangry’ – study

Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples

Sweetened blood cools hot tempers: physiological self-control and aggression

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