Associations between Hunger and Psychological Outcomes: A Large-Scale Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

Nutrients. 2022 Dec 5;14(23):5167. doi: 10.3390/nu14235167.


Studies assessing the association between hunger and psychological states have been conducted in laboratory settings, or limited to persons with eating disorders. In this study, 748 community-dwelling adults (56.4% women, 60.0 ± 9.3 years) completed the Ecological Momentary Assessment four times a day (08:00, 12:00, 16:00 and 20:00) for seven days. At each assessment, respondents indicated their current hunger level, food intake, and psychological states (sad, anxious, active, lively, distracted, anhedonic, angry, slow thinking and restless). Time-lagged associations assessing the effect of hunger on subsequent psychological states 4 h later and vice-versa were assessed. Hunger intensity increased subsequent active feeling (coefficient and 95% confidence interval: 0.029 (0.007; 0.051)) and lively feeling (0.019 (0.004; 0.034)) and decreased later slow thinking (-0.016 (-0.029; -0.003)). Previous eating increased later activity (0.116 (0.025; 0.208)). Feeling active (0.050 (0.036; 0.064)), lively (0.045 (0.023; 0.067)) and restless (0.040 (0.018; 0.063)) increased later hunger intensity, while distraction (-0.039 (-0.058; -0.019)) and slow thinking (-0.057 (-0.080; -0.034)) decreased it. No association was found between hunger, food intake and negative psychological states (sadness, anxiety and anger). Conclusions: Positive psychological states and hunger influence each other, while no association was found between hunger and negative psychological states.

Keywords: Ecological Momentary Assessment; epidemiology; food intake; hunger; psychology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment*
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Male