‘Hanger’ is a real emotion, new study finds

·2 min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Scientists have confirmed a strong link between feeling angry and irritable while you have an empty stomach – better known as “hanger”.

A small study found that the likelihood of a person displaying negative emotions and behaviours increases if they are hungry.

Researchers also found that hunger is associated with lower levels of pleasure.

The study, led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK and the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, is one of the first to examine how hunger can affect emotions as people go about their daily lives.

Lead author Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at ARU, said: “Many of us are aware that being hungry can influence our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has focused on being ‘hangry’.

“By following people in their day-to-day lives, we found that hunger was related to levels of anger, irritability and pleasure.”

The study, published in the Plos One journal, involved 121 participants, including 64 people from central Europe, who completed a number of daily surveys over a period of 21 days.

They reported their feelings and levels of hunger on a smartphone app up to five times a day.

It also took into account factors such as age and sex, body mass index, dietary behaviour, and individual personality traits.

The study found that negative emotions are caused by both day-to-day fluctuations in hunger, as well as residual levels of hunger.

The researchers wrote that while being hungry “may not automatically lead to negative emotions”, the link shows that “it may not take much for hungry individuals to experience anger and irritability”.

Swami said: “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 recognising 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 behaviours in individuals.”