The relation of post-work ruminative thinking with eating behaviour

Stress Health. 2012 Feb;28(1):23-30. doi: 10.1002/smi.1397. Epub 2011 May 3.


Inability to unwind about work during leisure time has been associated with a number of negative health outcomes. This study was concerned with a possible behavioural pathway between unwinding and disease and examined the relationship between work-related rumination and food choice. Work-related rumination is arguably a core to understanding the 'unwinding process', and food choice is a well-established indicator of nutritional health. Two hundred and sixty-eight full-time workers from a range of white-collar occupations completed a self-report measure of ruminative thinking about work and an eating behaviour questionnaire. Three types of ruminative thinking were identified by factor analysis and labelled affective rumination, problem-solving pondering and detachment. In terms of food choice, high-relative to low-affective ruminators reported eating more unhealthy foods, and low detachers reported eating less cooked meals and more processed foods compared to high detachers. Problem-solving pondering was not associated with food choice, and none of the factors were associated with healthy food choice. It was concluded that failure to unwind from work is not necessarily related to unhealthy food choices. What appears to be the crucial factor is the type of perseverative thinking that people engage in post-work. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Diet / psychology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Solving
  • Relaxation / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking*
  • Work / psychology*
  • Young Adult