Bored eaters snacked more during the pandemic, WSU study finds

Researchers at Washington State University found that people who ate more due to boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic snacked more often, instead of waiting to feel full or hungry.

Girl works at a computer and eats fast food. Unhealthy food pictured includes: chips, crackers, candy, waffles, cola.
WSU researchers are studying the connection between eating and boredom.

Lexie Jackson, scientist and instructor at WSU’s Department of Human Development, and Alana Anderson, a WSU graduate research assistant, surveyed behavior and eating habits of 360 people, ages 18 and older during April and May of 2020.

Participants completed a survey on changes in boredom, how healthy participants’ diets were, what they ate, and how often they snacked.

Jackson and Anderson are part of a 12-person team engaged in long-term studies of the effects of the pandemic on different health behaviors. When social distancing measures fell into place at the beginning of the pandemic, Jackson realized it was the perfect opportunity to study how boredom and eating behaviors overlap.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, showed respondents typically snacked more even when their level of boredom changed.

A registered dietitian, Jackson said she noticed changes with her own behavior when it came to eating. She found herself grabbing a snack from the kitchen or making a bigger lunch while working from home.

“Having access to food all the time is a big change for me, and for many others,” she said.

Increases in eating could have substantial long-term impacts on health, like higher cholesterol, blood pressure, and depressive symptoms.