Feeling bored is a recipe for disaster! Because according to new research, people are more likely to eat unhealthy food when life isn’t particularly interesting.
If you have nothing interesting to do, chances are you will be drawn towards chips and cookies despite being full, according to the study. The research by Dr Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) found that people crave fatty and sugary foods when they are bored.
Dr Mann and her fellow authors, Faye Ibbitson and Ben Edwards, also from UCLan, conducted two studies of boredom and food choices.
In the first study the researchers asked 52 participants to complete a questionnaire on their food preferences before and after completing the boredom-inducing task of repeatedly copying the same group of letters.
In the second study they asked 45 participants to watch either a boring or a funny video, during which a range of healthy and unhealthy snacks were available.
The bowls were weighed before and after each trial to how much of each snack had been eaten.
The results from the first study showed people were more likely to express a preference for unhealthy foods like crisps, sweets and fast food after completing the boring task.
The results from the second study showed that the participants who had watched the boring video ate significantly more unhealthy food.
Dr Mann said that these results strengthen 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.
Dr Mann noted, “People designing health education campaigns to encourage us to make healthier food choices need to take boredom, including boredom in the workplace, into account. Bored people do not eat nuts.”
The study is being presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society.