New study finds that ‘hanger’ is a real emotion

Have you ever found yourself snapping at a friend or colleague for a seemingly innocuous reason? Then you realise it’s 3pm and you’re yet to have lunch – ah, you’re just hangry!

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The term ‘hanger’ has been widely used in a colloquial sense for years. The word itself is a portmanteau of hunger and anger, and used to describe the negative feelings or emotions one might experience when they’re hungry. And let’s face it – we’ve all been there.

If you’re someone who is particularly susceptible to hanger, then vindication is finally here because scientists have officially found that hanger is a real emotion.

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A new study published in the academic journal Plos One examined how hunger can affect people’s emotions, by asking participants to log their feelings and levels of hunger on a smartphone app up to five times a day.

And it came to the conclusion that negative emotions can be caused by day-to-day fluctuations in hunger and residual levels of hunger, although it’s worth noting that the researchers wrote that while being hungry ‘may not automatically lead to negative emotions’, the link shows that ‘it may not take much for hungry individuals to experience anger and irritability.’ Now that’s a feeling we can all relate to…

woman with empty plate
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Lead author Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at ARU, said: ‘Many of us are aware that being hungry can influence our emotions, but surprisingly little scientific research has focused on being ‘hangry’.’

He continued: ‘Although our study doesn’t present ways to mitigate negative hunger-induced emotions, research suggests that being able to label an emotion can help people to regulate it, such as by recognising that we feel angry simply because we are hungry.

‘Therefore, greater awareness of being ‘hangry’ could reduce the likelihood that hunger results in negative emotions and behaviours in individuals.’