Food is inextricably linked with our moods isn’t it? How many of us truly, constantly eat to fuel our bodies? A rare few I’d bet. And while we’ve talked here before about how certain foods can certainly boost our moods, others can act as depressants or downers—alcohol I’m looking at you.
And while it seems that digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia can cheer us up on the dumpiest of days, new research in adolescents show that eating junk food and alcohol intake is linked to unhappiness. (Factoring in family-related factors such as income and educational status.)
Dr. Cara Booker, senior research officer with the UK-based Institute for Social and Economic Research, conducted a study which surveyed some 5,000 adolescents ages 10-15 years. The results revealed that young people who drink alcohol, smoke and eat junk food are more likely to be unhappy than their healthier classmates. “The research on junk food and happiness is mixed. There’s some evidence that eating junk food does result in happiness, however the question is whether these effects last for more than a short amount of time. Also there is a lot of research that has looked at emotional eating, or eating due to poor mood,” notes Booker. “Meanwhile the research on alcohol and adolescents is a bit clearer. Adolescents who drink are more likely to have poorer outcomes. They are not only less happy, but they have lower academic achievements and that may lead to poorer achievements in later life.”
That peek into the later lives of adults is partly what led Booker to undertake research in this area. “Health-related behaviours such as food consumption and the amount of physical activity that one does in adolescence is related to what you eat and how much you exercise in adulthood,” she says. “Therefore we’d like to know more about patterns of consumption and exercise and how they relate to happiness as those patterns may be related to what we observe in adults.”
Now applying the results of this study directs to us adults is a bit of a stretch she notes. “However, what I can say is that in never hurts to choose healthy habits and in times of stress or well-being if you are one to turn to smoking, drinking or eating junk food to try some alternative, healthier option such as taking a walk or eating fruit,” she adds.
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