“The colloquial term “hangry” refers to the notion that people become angry when hungry, but very little research has directly determined the extent to which the relationship between hunger and negative emotions is robust,” the study’s authors said. But after studying 64 participants from Central Europe, who reported their hunger, anger, irritability, pleasure and arousal levels five times a day, researchers found that greater levels of self-reported hunger were associated with greater feelings of anger and irritability, and with lower pleasure.
Even after accounting for people’s gender, age, body mass index and dietary behaviors, these findings remained significant, researchers said.
In other words, as the study said, “being hangry is real.”
The word was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in January 2018. Katherine Connor Martin, then the head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford, wrote in a blog post that “hangry” is a blend of hungry and angry, used to mean “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.” It’s really only been in the 21st century that the word hangry has been used colloquially, Martin, now the head of product for Oxford Languages, said.
“However, the earliest known evidence for the word dates from 1956, in an unusual article in the psychoanalytic journal American Imago that describes various kinds of deliberate and accidental wordplay,” she said.
One of the researchers in the recent report, Viren Swami, a social psychology professor at Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K., told USA Today that theirs is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between hunger and anger.
“While we acknowledge that hunger is complex, involving physiological, interoceptive, and environmental inputs, self-reported or subjective ratings are reliable and valid indicators of the experience of hunger,” the study’s authors said.
Before the study, which was published in the journal Plos One on Wednesday, it had been assumed that hunger evokes negative emotions, but that evidence had been “somewhat equivocal.”
Other studies have, however, shown that in non-human species, food deprivation increases people’s motivation to engage in escalated and persistent aggression to get something to eat.
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“We show, for the first time in a non-laboratory, real-world setting, that feeling hungry is associated with greater anger, irritability and lower levels of pleasure,” Swami said in USA Today.
The study doesn’t include ways to mitigate against negative hunger-induced emotions, but authors noted that existing research suggests that being able to label an emotion can help individuals regulate them.