Enrichment Science

Becoming ‘hangry’ is a real thing, new study suggests

“Greater awareness of being ‘hangry’ could reduce the likelihood that hunger results in negative emotions and behaviors in individuals,” the study’s lead author said.
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Story at a glance


  • Researchers found that hunger is associated with a rise in irritability and anger and lower levels of pleasure.

  • For the study, the research team recorded the hunger levels of 64 central European adults over a 21-day period. 

  • Participants were instructed to use a smartphone app to record their feelings and hunger levels five times a day in their normal environments.

Hunger can actually lead to the irritable emotional state commonly defined as being “hangry,” according to a new study.  

Researchers found in a field-based study published in the journal PLos One that hunger is associated with a rise in irritability and anger and lower levels of pleasure.  

For the study, the research team recorded the hunger levels of 64 central European adults over a 21-day period. Participants were instructed to use a smartphone app to record their feelings and hunger levels five times a day in their normal environments.  

“This ‘hangry’ effect hasn’t been analyzed in detail, so we chose a field-based approach where participants were invited to respond to prompts to complete brief surveys on an app,” said Stefan Stieger, a professor of Psychology at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences. “They were sent these prompts five times a day at semi-random occasions over a three-week period.” 

The team found hunger was associated with 37 percent of the variance in irritability, 34 percent of the variance in anger and 38 percent of the variance in pleasure. These feelings can be caused by both daily fluctuations and residual hunger levels. 

“The results of the present study suggest that the experience of being hangry is real, insofar as hunger was associated with greater anger and irritability, and lower pleasure, in our sample over a period of three weeks,” the authors wrote. 

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The study’s lead author Viren Swami, a professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), noted that although the study does not offer solutions to control emotional responses to hunger, “being able to label an emotion can help people to regulate it.” 

“Therefore, greater awareness of being ‘hangry’ could reduce the likelihood that hunger results in negative emotions and behaviors in individuals,” Swami said.  

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