'Hangry' is now a commonly-used term — is it real? What does it actually mean?
Life often gets in the way of eating breakfast. Say, the alarm did go off but it was impossible to get out of a warm bed for at least five more minutes. Say, the geyser took its time heating up the water and by the time the hair gel set in, it was time to dash to the metro. Say, you made it by the skin of your teeth and caught the train, but there was a review meeting as soon as you reached office. On any given day, there could be a thousand reasons why it just wasn’t possible to grab a bite and reach office on time.
Whatever your reasons for missing breakfast, there are consequences. And some of us just feel them sooner rather than later: we’re cranky and snap at unsuspecting coworkers all day! In other words, we're plain hangry till we eat.
Hangry, a slightly dubious and widely misunderstood portmanteau of hunger and anger, is a well-known concept today, thanks to an advertisement for a chocolate bar that debuted at the American Superbowl in 2010. And the symptoms — increased irritability, difficulty concentrating and fatigue — of hangriness are somewhat known too.
What most people don’t always understand is the reasons for the crankiness, how it works and the right fix for it.
Low blood sugar equals unhappy
There is ample evidence to show that hunger affects our mood. Here's how it happens:
It varies from person to person, but blood sugar levels start dropping as the body starts feeling hungry. The low glucose level causes the body to release cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), the presence of which has also been linked to irritability and aggression. Additionally, studies show that our mood temporarily affects how we see the world (scientists describe this as affect-as-information). Since hunger excites negative feelings, we may be more likely to react poorly to situations. So it makes sense that we are quick to anger when we’re hungry.
Unhappiness adds up
A string of studies has challenged these claims of aggravated feelings linked to hangriness. It turns out that hunger alone isn’t sufficient reason to be angry; everything depends on the context.
Jennifer MacCormack, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted a bunch of experiments to study the effect of hunger on mood.
In the first set of studies, conducted online, MacCormack asked 400 participants to rate how hungry they felt. Next, she asked them to look at positive, negative and neutral emotional images. Finally, she showed them an ambiguous pictograph that they had not seen before and asked the participants to rate the pictograph on a seven-point scale on pleasantness. While their level of hunger did not affect how people reacted to positive and neutral images, hungry participants reacted more strongly to the negative images and were more likely to label the pictograph unpleasant.
As the affect-as-information theory suggests, emotions are more likely to frame situations when they match them. The negative feelings associated with hunger are amplified in adverse situations. So when people lash out, they may be projecting the negative feelings onto coworkers (or a spouse) without realizing that hunger may be the real reason for their frustrations.
Hanger is a feeling with the wrong outlet
In another study, MacCormack asked 118 students to skip a meal and another 118 to participate on a full stomach. The participants were then randomly assorted and one group was asked to write about their feelings and how they were doing while the other group was asked to write about an ordinary, unremarkable day. Following this, they were asked to complete an intentionally convoluted computer task. Towards the end of the task, the computers were programmed to show error messages and stop responding. At this point, researchers would enter the scene and blame the crash on the students.
In the end, the students were asked to fill out a survey detailing what they thought of the structure and layout of the study. Interestingly, more students who had eaten but written about an unremarkable day expressed frustration with the study. Hungry students who had written about their feelings before the computer-crashing incident presented more level and restrained reactions.
The authors suggested that “hanger” may be contained by some self-reflection and taking a step back from the frustrating situation. (Don't tell a spouse or colleague to stop being hangry, though. That could just make things worse, and focus their ire on you.)
Also, you are less likely to be “hangry” if you are having an otherwise pleasant day. While the latter is intuitive, the intention of the study was to complicate the definition of “hanger” and develop an understanding of how our bodies and physical health shape our mental health.
The authors of the study suggested carrying healthy, protein-rich snacks on you to ward off hunger pangs. Avoid junk food, though, as it can cause another sugar crash and elevate irritability and stimulate a desire for more food.
For more information, please read our article on Low Blood Sugar.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
Updated Date: Dec 19, 2019 13:14:19 IST
Everything you wanted to know about having sex during pregnancy
Same-old TB vaccine could get a manyfold boost its effectiveness: US study
Most of us write, eat and bat with our right hand – why, and is it a disadvantage?
Lots of hair fall in your 20s could be linked to stress, diets, painkillers and more
Dry January Challenge: Going off alcohol for 30 days could help you lose weight, improve cholesterol levels
Fumes from burning waste, DDT sprays affect the size, weight of unborn babies: NIH study
How stress causes grey hair and what to do about it
Magic mushrooms and ecstasy help to treat PTSD in clinical trials
All you need to know about having sex during your period
Coronavirus outbreak: Why WHO hasn't declared it a global public health emergency, explained
Coronavirus update: AIIMS preps isolation ward, death toll reaches 106, new vaccine in the making and more
The dancing plague, biting mania and other bizarre epidemics and outbreaks in history