woman reaching for doughnut

Feeling ‘hangry’ is real: new study proves we do get angry or irritable when we are hungry

Academics find proof that hunger and anger are linked. 

Have you ever heard the acronym HALT? It’s a term used to remind us that we should never make critical decisions when we are either hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Hunger is rightly the first in that list – and it could be more important than ever to follow the rule because hanger is a very real thing. 

Hanger, the pleasing portmanteau of hunger and anger, refers to the irritability and anger we often feel when we haven’t had enough to eat, have skipped a meal or arrive home from work in a very bad mood because we are famished. Even if you’ve never experienced feeling ‘hangry’ yourself, then I’ll bet you know someone you don’t want to be around if they haven’t eaten. 

You may also like

Do you get hungrier when you use your brain? How stress and thinking impact your energy levels

Now, new research conducted here in the UK shows that ‘hanger’ is real and scientifically backed. At Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, professor of social psychology Viren Swami and a team of academics looked into the effects of being hangry and the results have now been published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

You may also like

Nutrition myth busting: the truth about appetite, including if eating a lot is bad

According to Medical News Today, 81.3% of those who completed the 121-person were women. The methodology required participants to “complete short surveys semi-randomly five times a day for 21 days”, logging their feelings on an app. This goal was to log “in-the-moment accounts of hunger experiences” and how that related to or affected emotional wellbeing.

woman empty plate

Is feeling hangry real?

So what did the study reveal? Well, in short, being hangry is very real – feelings of hunger can easily morph into ‘hanger’, triggering feelings of anger and irritability.

“Hunger correlated with a 56% variance in irritability, a 48% variance in anger, and 44% variance in pleasure among the study’s participants,” reports Medical News Today.

Of course, labelling the emotions we feel when we feel them can help us deal with them, so if you get hangry it could be helpful to be mindful or even log your feelings to help understand why you are angry – if you catch it early it could solve a lot of issues at home, at work and everywhere else.

You may also like

How to recognise emotional eating, and how it affects your nutritional (and mental) health

“Research suggests that being able to label an emotion can help people to regulate it, such as by recognizing that we feel angry simply because we are hungry,” confirms Dr. Swami.

Sadly this particular study doesn’t offer any advice on how to stop reduce or stop negative hunger-related feelings but maybe we don’t need science to figure out the solution to that – don’t skip meals, make sure you carve out time to eat and that you are giving your body all the nutrients and food groups it needs – oh, and always pack snacks. 

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty