Hunger increases negative and decreases positive emotions in women with a healthy weight

Appetite. 2022 Jan 1:168:105746. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105746. Epub 2021 Oct 9.


The term 'hangry' is colloquially used to describe being "bad tempered or irritable as a result of hunger," but remarkably few studies have examined the effect of hunger on emotions. Yet, women attempting to restrict their food intake may be at risk of becoming entangled in a vicious cycle of hunger and negative emotions. That is, hunger may lead to negative emotions, which can lead to overeating and overeating can, in turn, provoke subsequent restriction leading to more hunger. Therefore the aim of this study was to examine the effect of hunger on positive and negative emotions in women with a healthy BMI, and the role of subclinical eating disorder symptoms in this effect. We randomly assigned women to a hunger condition (fasting for 14 h, n = 53) or satiated condition (eat breakfast before the study, n = 55), and they completed the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire and the Profile of Mood States in the lab. Hungry women reported overall higher negative emotions (higher tension, anger, fatigue, and confusion) and lower positive emotions (lower vigour and marginally lower esteem-related affect) than satiated women. Moreover, for satiated but not for hungry women, higher eating disorder symptoms were associated with lower esteem-related affect. These findings show that food restriction leads to negative emotions, and practitioners and individuals should be aware of these implications of food restriction on mental health. Second, clinicians and individuals should be wary of relatively low esteem-related affect when satiated in individuals with eating disorder symptoms, as it could serve as a maintaining factor in eating pathology.

Keywords: Eating disorders; Emotion regulation; Healthy weight; Hunger; Negative emotions; Positive emotions; Restriction.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Eating
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hunger*
  • Hyperphagia