Trouble In Paradise? Or Is It Just Low Blood Sugar?
This is one of the actual voodoo dolls used in the study to measure participants’ anger with their spouses. Photo by Jo McCulty, Ohio State University
Was it something he said? Or was it low blood sugar?
Low blood sugar levels may make married people angrier at their spouses and even more likely to lash out aggressively, report Ohio State University researchers.
In a 21-day study, they found that levels of blood glucose in married people, measured each night, predicted how angry they would be with their spouse that evening.
At the end of the 21 days, people who had generally lower levels of glucose were willing to blast their spouses with unpleasant noises at a higher volume and for a longer time than those who had higher glucose levels.
The study shows how one simple, often overlooked factor – hunger caused by low levels of blood glucose – may play a role in marital arguments, confrontations and possibly even some domestic violence, said Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at OSU.
Blood glucose levels can be brought up most quickly by eating carbohydrates or sugary foods.
“People can relate to this idea that when they get hungry, they get cranky,” Bushman said.
It even has a slang term: “hangry” (hungry + angry).
“We found that being hangry can affect our behavior in a bad way, even in our most intimate relationships,” he said.
They were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button faster when a target square turned red on the computer – and the winner on each trial could blast his or her spouse with loud noise through headphones.
In reality, though, they weren’t playing against their spouse – they were playing against a computer that let them win about half the time.
Each time they “won,” the participants decided how loud of a noise they would deliver to their spouse and how long it would last. Their spouses were in separate rooms during the experiment, so participants didn’t know they weren’t really delivering the noise blast.
“Within the ethical limits of the lab, we gave these participants a weapon that they could use to blast their spouse with unpleasant noise,” Bushman said.
Results showed that people with lower average levels of evening glucose sent louder and longer noise to their spouse – even after controlling for relationship satisfaction and differences between men and women.
Further analysis showed that those who stuck more pins in the voodoo doll representing their spouse were more likely to deliver louder and longer noise blasts, as well.