Getting ‘Hangry’ Is Real, Study Reveals


| LAST UPDATE 07/31/2022

By Elena White
Hangry Hungry Angry Study
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We've all been there: desperately hungry with no food in sight, and before we know it, we've turned into the lesser-friendly versions of ourselves. Commonly referred to as "Hangy," we find ourselves unable to deal with even the slightest inconvenience and snap at anyone who attempts to get in our way. The emotions feel so real, and yet no scientist has confirmed it to be so. Until now, that is. For the first time, scientists have found a clear link between hunger and anger, helping us all to feel a little better about our moments of 'hangriness.' Here's what they found...

In a recent European study, scientific researchers tested 64 volunteers, searching for a link between being hungry and feeling irritable and angry. Led by social psychologist Viren Swami, Ph.D. at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, the team confirmed that "being hangry is real." Talking to TODAY, Swami explained, "feeling hungry is associated with greater anger, irritability, and lower levels of pleasure." But what is behind it? Why do we feel this way when we're hungry? "We're more likely to experience negative emotions when we're hungry because we're more likely to interpret contextual cues in a negative way," noted Swami.

Hungry, Angry, Hangry, Study
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This study is groundbreaking because it is the first to analyze the phenomenon in the real world and not just in the lab. 5 times a day for 21 days, participants were asked to rank their hunger and emotional state levels from 0 to 100. Alongside this information, they also strived to understand the participants' eating habits - who eats which meals, who snacks in the middle of the night, who eats when emotional, who eats when they see others eat, who tries to eat healthily, and who pays attention to feelings of hunger. 

The statistics proved that fluctuating hunger levels throughout the day would predict negative emotions. The hungrier a person would get, the angrier they became. Overall, this study contributes to the growing research seeking to prove the connections between the gut and brain. "The gut communicates with the brain through various pathways — various hormones, for example, and the vagus nerve," explained a psychiatrist at John Hopkins University. At present, this "hanger" study can only prove an association and not direct causation. But still, plenty can be learned from it. Eating enough throughout the day and always having an emergency snack on hand can help alleviate these irritable emotions...

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