Objective: Examine the association between perceived stress and hunger continuously over a week in free-living individuals. Methods: Forty five young adults (70% women, 30% overweight/obese) ages 18 to 24 years (Mean=20.7, SD=1.5), with BMI between 17.4 and 36.3kg/m2 (Mean=23.6, SD=4.0) provided between 513 and 577 concurrent ratings of perceived stress and hunger for 7 days via hourly, text messaging assessments and real-time eating records. Time-varying effect modeling was used to explore whether the within-day fluctuations in stress are related to perceived hunger assessed on a momentary basis. Results: A generally positive stress-hunger relationship was confirmed, but we found that the strength of the relationship was not linear. Rather, the magnitude of the association between perceived stress and hunger changed throughout the day such that only during specific time intervals were stress and hunger significantly related. Specifically, the strength of the positive association peaked during late afternoon hours on weekdays (β=0.31, p<.05) and it peaked during evening hours on weekend days (β=0.56, p<.05). Conclusion: This is the first empirical study to demonstrate potentially maladaptive, nonlinear stress-hunger associations that peak in the afternoon or evening hours. While we are unable to infer causality from these analyses, our findings provide empirical evidence for a potentially high-risk time of day for stress-induced eating. Replication of these findings in larger, more diverse samples will aid with the design and implementation of real-time intervention studies aimed at reducing stress-eating.
- Ecological momentary assessments
- Stress eating
- Time-varying effect modeling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nutrition and Dietetics