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The first clinical study on the effect of hunger on people’s emotions found that hunger was associated with higher levels of hunger. anger and irritability and decreased levels of pleasure.
This is stated in a recent report published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One from the Public Science Library.
“I wish I could finish my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I’m hungry,” American snowboarder Chloe Kim tweeted during the recent Winter Olympics.
“Many of us know that hunger can affect our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has been done on ‘fasting’,” says lead author Dr. Viren Swamy, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, announced the new study in a press release.
“Our first study looking at hunger outside the lab,” he said.
“Following people in their daily lives, we found that hunger is associated with levels of anger, irritability, and pleasure.”
Researchers from the UK and Austria recruited 121 adults from Central Europe.
The study was completed by 64 adult participants aged 18 to 60 years.
About 81% of the respondents were women.
The study used a scoring method known as “experience sampling method“To better understand how hunger affects the emotional outcomes of people’s lives.
The methodology did not require a control group as the sample size was sufficiently statistically sound for the study design, Swami told Fox News Digital.
Participants reported their feelings and degree of hunger by responding to prompts on a smartphone app to complete short surveys that the study sent out five times a day on a semi-random basis for three weeks.
“We believe this is the first time that an association with negative emotions has been demonstrated with two different self-reported forms of hunger.”
The study found that hunger was associated with 37% changes in irritability, 34% in anger, and 38% in pleasure after controlling for variables that may have affected the outcome of the study, including age, gender, body mass index and dietary behavior participants, the report said.
The study did not account for mental health issues or other triggers that may contribute to negative emotions, although it did control the anger trait, according to Medical News Today, which reviewed the study.
The researchers found that daily fluctuations in hunger as well as residual hunger levels (measured on average over a three-week period) were associated with irritability, anger, and unpleasant feelings.
“We believe this is the first time that an association with negative emotions has been demonstrated with two different forms of self-reported hunger. [suggesting] that the connection can be quite reliable,” the authors said in their study.
The researchers also measured pleasure and arousal by asking participants, “How enjoyable do you find your current state?” and “What is your current level of arousal?”
“Better aware that you are hungry can reduce the likelihood that hunger will lead to negative emotions and [behaviors] from individuals.”
Participants’ pleasure responses ranged from 0 to 100, from 0 (very unpleasant) to 100 (very pleasant), and arousal responses ranged from 0 (drowsy) to 100 (highly aroused).
Swami explained that “excitement” refers to physiological arousal or excitement, not happiness, which allowed for “a more holistic description of the emotionality of the participants.”
But unlike negative emotions such as irritability, anger, and unpleasantness, the results were not significantly related to levels of arousal.
“Based on our results, it can be argued that the combination of negative states and high arousal is associated with high levels of hunger, and not with arousal per se,” the authors say.
“It may also help explain why highly aroused states such as anger showed a significant association with self-reported hunger in our study,” the authors say.
The study found that some situations are more likely to lead to anger and irritability compared to others—for example, being alone versus being in a group, or work versus play. The study is limited because it was unable to measure the context of these situations.
The authors suggested that the feeling of hunger can be translated into negative emotions through various everyday situations that are perceived negatively, according to Medical News Today.
So hunger may not trigger negative emotions reflexively, but the context of how people experience hunger can influence their emotions and behavior, according to a medical news release.
Another limitation of the study was that both anger and irritability were assessed as a single item; researchers have not been able to fully address the potential subtleties of negative emotional experiences.
Research shows that the ability to label an emotion can help people regulate it.
The researchers also did not measure physiological markers of hunger, such as participants’ glucose levels, noting that such changes may also influence negative emotional states. Due to the small sample size, the study cannot be generalized to a diverse population.
“While our study does not provide ways to mitigate the negative emotions caused by hunger, research suggests that the ability to label an emotion can help people regulate it, for example by [recognizing] that we are angry simply because we are hungry,” Swami said in a press release.
“Thus, being more aware that you are “hungry” may reduce the likelihood that hunger will lead to negative emotions and [behaviors] from individuals.”