Science

Hunger really can make us ‘hangry', study suggests

An empty stomach is strongly linked to feeling angry and irritable, researchers say.

Hunger can really make people “hangry”, research suggests.

The small study found that an empty stomach is strongly linked to feeling angry and irritable, leading to a feeling many know as hanger – a combination of the words hunger and anger.

Led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK and the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, the research also found that hunger is associated with lower levels of pleasure.

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’.

“Ours is the first study to examine being ‘hangry’ outside of a lab.

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

“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.”

Researchers recruited 64 people from central Europe, who recorded their levels of hunger and various measures of emotional wellbeing over a 21-day period.

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

According to the findings, hunger is associated with stronger feelings of anger and irritability, as well as lower ratings of pleasure.

The study suggests that the effects were substantial, even after taking into account factors such as age and sex, body mass index, dietary behaviour, and individual personality traits.

It further found that the negative emotions – irritability, anger, and unpleasantness – are caused by both day-to-day fluctuations in hunger, as well as residual levels of hunger.

The findings are published in the Plos One journal.