Boredom Leads to Unhealthy Food Choices

Bored? Then you are more likely to reach for fatty and sugary foods.

That’s something that we’ve all known for years, but now there is scientific data that proves it.

That data was recently presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society by Dr. Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire in England.

To gather the data, Mann and her colleagues, Faye Ibbitson and Ben Edwards, conducted two studies of boredom and food choices.

In the first study, the researchers asked 52 people to complete a questionnaire on their food preferences before and after completing the boredom-inducing task of repeatedly copying the same group of letters.

The researchers report that people were more likely to express a preference for unhealthy foods like potato chips, sweets and fast food after completing the boring task.

In a second study they divided 45 people into two groups. One watched a boring video, while the other watched a funny video.

At the same time, there were bowls of healthy and unhealthy snacks available for the video watchers to munch on.

The scientists, who weighed each bowl before and after each trial of the experiment to see how much had actually been eaten, found that people who watched the boring video ate significantly more unhealthy food.

“These results are in line with previous research suggesting that we crave fatty and sugary foods when we are bored,” Mann said. “This strengthens the theory that boredom is related to low levels of the stimulating brain chemical dopamine and that people try to boost this by eating fat and sugar if they cannot alleviate their boredom in some other way.”

“People designing health education campaigns to encourage us to make healthier food choices need to take boredom, including boredom in the workplace, into account,” she continued. “Bored people do not eat nuts.”

-Janice Wood

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