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The first clinical study to examine how hunger affects people’s emotions found that feelings of hunger are associated with higher levels of anger and irritability and lower levels of pleasure.
That’s according to a recent report published in the Public Library of Science’s journal PLOS One.
“I wish I’d finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn fool decided against it and now I’m getting hungry,” American snowboarder Chloe Kim tweeted during the last Winter Olympics.
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“Many of us are aware that hunger can affect our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has focused on being ‘hungry,'” said lead author Dr. Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, in a press release about the new study.
“Ours is the first study to look at whether you’re ‘hangry’ outside of a lab,” he said.
“By following people in their daily lives, we found that hunger was related to anger, irritability, and pleasure.”
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Researchers from the UK and Austria recruited 121 adults from central Europe.
64 adult participants aged 18 to 60 completed the study.
About 81% of the people interviewed were women.
The study used an assessment method known as the “Experience Sampling Method” to better understand how hunger affects people’s emotional outcomes in life.
The methodology does not require a control group because the sample size is statistically adequate for the study design, Swami told Fox News Digital.
Participants reported their feelings and hunger by responding to prompts from a smartphone application to fill out short surveys that the study sent semi-randomly five times a day over a three-week period.
“We believe this is the first time an association with negative emotions has been demonstrated for two different forms of self-reported hunger.”
The research found that hunger was associated with 37% of changes in irritability, 34% in anger, and 38% in happiness after controlling for variables that might affect the study’s outcome — including age, gender, and body mass index nutritional behavior of the participants. the release specified.
The study didn’t account for mental health issues or other triggers that may contribute to negative emotions, although it did control for anger, according to Medical News Today, which analyzed the study.
The researchers found that daily fluctuations in hunger, as well as residual hunger (measured as an average over a three-week period), were associated with irritability, anger, and discomfort.
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“We believe this is the first time that an association with negative emotions has been demonstrated for two different forms of self-reported hunger. [suggesting] that the connection could be quite robust,” the authors said in their study.
Researchers also measured pleasure and arousal by asking participants, “How comfortable do you find your current state?” and “What is your current arousal level?”
“Greater awareness of being ‘hangry’ could reduce the likelihood that hunger leads to negative emotions and [behaviors] in individuals.”
Participants’ pleasure responses ranged from 0 to 100, with 0 (very uncomfortable) to 100 (very comfortable) – while arousal responses ranged from 0 (drowsy) to 100 (high arousal).
Swami explained that “arousal” refers to physiological arousal or excitement rather than happiness, allowing “a more holistic representation of the emotionality of the participants”.
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But unlike negative emotions like irritability, anger, and uncomfortableness, the results were not significantly associated with the level of arousal.
“Based on our results, it can be argued that it is the combination of negative states and high arousal that is associated with high levels of hunger, rather than arousal per se,” the authors said.
“This may also help explain why high levels of arousal, such as anger, were significantly associated with self-reported hunger in our study,” the authors said.
The study found that some situations are more likely to lead to anger and irritability than others — such as being alone versus in a group, or work versus having fun. The study is limited because it could not measure the context of these situations.
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The authors suggested that, according to Medical News Today, the experience of hunger can be translated into negative emotions through a variety of everyday situations that are perceived negatively.
So hunger may not reflexively lead to negative emotions — but the context in which people experience hunger can influence their emotions and behaviors, according to the medical news outlet.
Another limitation of the study was that anger and irritability were assessed as single-item measures; The researchers were unable to fully address the potential subtleties in the negative emotional experience.
Research suggests that being able to name an emotion can help people regulate it.
The researchers also did not measure physiological markers of hunger, such as the participant’s glucose levels, and found that such changes can also influence negative emotional states. Due to the small sample size, the study cannot be generalized to a heterogeneous population.
“Although our study does not identify any ways to mitigate negative emotions caused by hunger, research suggests that being able to name an emotion may help people regulate it, e.g [recognizing] that we are angry just because we are hungry,” Swami said in a press release.
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“Hence, greater awareness of being ‘hungry’ may reduce the likelihood that hunger will lead to negative emotions and [behaviors] in individuals.”