A New Study Shows Being 'Hangry' Isn't Just In Your Head

"Hangry," a portmanteau of the words "hungry" and "angry," is the perfectly apt way to describe the feeling of irritation that often accompanies pangs of hunger. Most of us have probably felt this emotion at least once or twice in our lives, when we've snapped at somebody or grown extra frustrated at mildly inconvenient situations after missing a meal or two. And while many people probably don't need any evidence beyond their own experiences to know that this emotion is real, a scientific study has just shown that "hanger" is a real thing.

The recent study, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the experience of hanger in a real world setting by asking 64 volunteers from Central Europe to fill out a survey reporting their feelings of hunger, irritability, and anger on a level of 0 to 100 five times a day, over the span of 21 days. The conclusion? Hanger is not just in your head. "Feeling hungry is associated with greater anger, irritability and lower levels of pleasure," Viren Swami, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and the study's lead author, explained to Today.

The study showed a link between hunger and negative emotions

The study found "greater levels of self-reported hunger were associated with greater feelings of anger and irritability, and with lower pleasure." Researchers asked volunteers to report their feelings of pleasure and arousal throughout the day, and while they found no significant link between arousal and hunger, the connection between hunger and "negative emotionality" was very real. Moreover, the hungrier someone was, the angrier and more irritable they became. The process took participants' sex, age, body mass index, dietary behaviors, and other traits into account.

Interestingly, science has also shown that hanger isn't just a human trait. A previous study published in the journal Animal Behaviour found that adult male fruit flies showed increased aggression when deprived of food. Some scientists speculate that, among humans, this emotional reaction to hunger might have developed as an evolutionary trait to drive people to look harder for food (via Today). So, if you've skipped lunch and find yourself growing increasingly irritable in your afternoon meetings, it might be a good idea to reach for a satisfying snack before accidentally biting someone's head off. You'll feel much better, and your colleagues will probably thank you, too.