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The first clinical study to investigate how hunger affects people’s mood found that hunger is associated with higher levels of anger and irritability and lower levels of happiness.
That’s according to a report recently published in the PLOS One peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.
“I wish I had finished my breakfast sandwich, but I stubbornly decided not to, and now I’m hungry,” U.S. snowboarder Chloe King tweeted at the recent Winter Olympics.
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“Many of us know that hunger affects our mood, but surprisingly little scientific research has looked at ‘hunger’,” said lead author Viren, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, UK Dr Swami said. Press release about the new study.
“Our study is the first to see ‘starvation’ outside the laboratory,” he added.
“By tracking people’s daily lives, we found that hunger was associated with levels of anger, irritability and happiness. »
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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 respondents were women.
The study used an assessment method called “experience sampling” to better understand how hunger affects people’s emotional life outcomes.
Swami told Fox News Digital that the method does not require a control group because the sample size is statistically sufficient to support the study design.
Participants responded to a short survey reporting how they were feeling and how hungry they were by responding to prompts on a smartphone app, which the study delivered five times a day in a semi-random fashion over a three-week period.
“We believe this is the first time a link to negative emotions has been demonstrated through two different forms of self-reported hunger. »
The study found that hunger was associated with 37 percent of irritability, 34 percent of anger, and 38 percent of changes in happiness, after controlling for variables that could have affected the findings, including participants’ age, gender, body mass index, and eating behavior. the specified version.
Medical News Today, which analyzed the study, said the study did not control for mental health issues or other triggers that could lead to negative emotions, although it did control for anger traits.
The researchers found that daily fluctuations in hunger, as well as residual levels of hunger (measured as an average over a three-week period), were associated with irritability, anger, and unhappiness.
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“We believe this is the first time a link to negative emotions has been demonstrated through two different forms of self-reported hunger, [suggesting] thought the link could be very strong,” the authors said in their study.
The researchers also measured happiness and excitement by asking participants “How pleasant do you feel about your current state?” and “What is your current level of arousal?” »
‘Higher awareness of hunger’ may reduce hunger leads to negative emotions and [behaviors] in person. »
Participants’ pleasurable responses ranged from 0 (very unpleasant) to 100 (very pleasurable) on a scale of 0 to 100 — while arousal responses ranged from 0 (drowsy) to 100 (strongly aroused).
Swami explained that “excitement” was associated with physiological arousal, or arousal, rather than happiness, which allowed “a more complete picture of participants’ emotions.”
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But unlike negative emotions such as irritability, anger and unhappiness, the results did not correlate significantly with arousal levels.
“Based on our results, it can be argued that the combination of negative states and high arousal is associated with higher levels of hunger, rather than arousal itself,” the authors said.
“This may also help explain why states of high arousal, such as anger, were significantly associated with self-reported hunger in our study,” the authors said.
Research indicates that certain situations are more likely to lead to anger and irritability than others, such as being alone and in a group or work and play. This study is limited because it cannot measure the context of these conditions.
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According to Medical News Today, the authors believe that the experience of hunger can be translated into negative emotions through a variety of negatively perceived everyday situations.
So hunger may not reflexively lead to negative emotions — but according to the Medical Institute, the environment in which people experience hunger can affect their mood and behavior.
Another limitation of the study is that it assessed anger and irritability as a single measure. Researchers have yet to fully address the underlying subtleties of negative emotional experiences.
Research shows that the ability to label emotions can help people regulate their emotions.
The researchers also did not measure physiological indicators of hunger, such as the participants’ blood sugar levels, noting that these changes also affected negative emotional states. Due to the small sample size, the study cannot be generalized to different populations.
“While our study does not suggest ways to reduce negative emotions caused by hunger, research suggests that being able to tag an emotion can help people regulate it, for example by [recognizing] We are angry only because we are hungry,” Swami said in the release.
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“Therefore, greater awareness of ‘hunger’ may reduce hunger leading to negative emotions and [behaviors] in person. »