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Work Stress Could Lead to Unhealthy Food Choices

Jun 26, 2017 02:44 PM EDT

A new study revealed that stress during work could negatively influence eating behaviors of employees, making them overeat or consume large amount of unhealthy foods at dinnertime.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, showed that the negative mood of employees from a stressful workday could carry on to the dinner table. This can be apparent in the food choices of the employees, in which they then to eat more than usual and opt for more junk foods instead of healthy foods.

For the paper, the researchers conducted two studies involving 235 total workers in China. In the first study, the researchers sampled 125 participants from five Chinese information technology companies. These employees experienced high workload in the morning. On the other hand, the second study involved 110 customer service employees that often get stressed having to deal with rude and demanding customers.

The researchers found that employees in both studies tend to overeat or prefer junk foods at night after developing a negative mood brought about by their stressful workday.

"Eating is sometimes used as an activity to relieve and regulate one's negative mood, because individuals instinctually avoid aversive feelings and approach desire feelings," explained Yihao Liu, an assistant professor at University of Illinois and co-author of the study, in a press release. "Unhealthy eating can also be a consequence of diminished self-control. When feeling stressed out by work, individuals usually experience inadequacy in exerting effective control over their cognitions and behaviors to be aligned with personal goals and social norms."

Interestingly, the researchers discovered a simple way on how to buffer the harmful effect of workday stress. They found that employees who have a good night's sleep tend to eat better when they experience work-related stress in the next day. They noted that a good night's sleep could make the employees better at handling stress and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating.

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