We've all experienced it. You suddenly get angry or frustrated with seemingly very little cause. Maybe you snap at a colleague, or you find a certain family member more irritating than usual. Then you realize that you skipped breakfast, and your "hanger" makes sense.
But although nearly everyone can relate to this scenario, surprisingly little scientific research has explored the link between hunger and emotions. In one of the first studies of its kind, British, Austrian, and Malaysian researchers teamed up to give "hanger" the academic treatment. Some might say that their results were completely predictable, as hunger was associated with negative emotions and behaviors, and reduced levels of pleasure.
The study involved 64 participants who used a smartphone app to track their emotions and hunger levels at various times over 21 days. Factors including age, gender, BMI, and personality were taken into account, but the results were overwhelmingly clear. For example, hunger was the culprit for 56% of the participants' irritable feelings.
Although more research is needed to determine exactly how hunger and anger are linked, possible explanations include low blood sugar or the release of stress hormones. So the next time you find yourself getting angry or irritable without cause, take a moment to assess your hunger. More often than not, a snack is what you need to help get your emotions back on track.
You seem a bit hangry ...
- Study lead author Viren Swami, a social psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, was inspired to conduct the research after being told on more than one occasion that he was "hangry." Swami wondered whether this was a real phenomenon.
- The study underlines the importance of not skipping meals in order to maintain a positive demeanor and productivity. On a serious note, it shows how essential breakfast is for schoolchildren, to help them maintain focus and self-control during morning lessons.
- "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,” Swami said.