Eating When Bored Most Common Type of Emotional Eating

Eating is a coping mechanism for many individuals. Some people use it to minimize pain, others to fill a loss. “Emotional eating is a change in the consumption of food in response to emotional stimuli, and has been linked to negative physical and psychological outcomes,” said Afton M. Koball of the Psychology Department at Bowling Green State University, and lead author of a recent study examining boredom in relation to emotional eating. “One shortcoming of the current literature on emotional eating is that few studies have examined specific emotional states that influence eating, as variability in emotional eating has been found across emotions,” said Koball.

In an attempt to understand more about the link between emotional eating and boredom, Koball and colleagues enlisted 139 college students and interviewed them using open-ended questionnaires. They asked them to report their eating habits in relation to the items on the original Emotional Eating Scale (EES) and added additional boredom subscales to offer participants a wider range of answers. “The original EES grouped emotions into three subscales: (a) Depression, (b) Anxiety, and (c) Anger/Frustration,” said the team. “For this study, six items were added (in addition to “Bored” from the original EES) to assess eating when bored for a total of 31 items.”

After assessing the students’ questionnaires, the researchers realized that boredom was a leading factor for emotional eating. “In addition to the finding that boredom is a relevant emotion that precedes eating, the exploratory factor analysis showed that the inclusion of a boredom subscale is a psychometrically valid addition to the EES,” they said. “The boredom subscale had good internal consistency and high rates of endorsement; higher in fact, than any of the other subscales, providing compelling evidence that boredom should be included in future research on emotional eating.”

Koball, A. M., Meers, M. R., Storfer-Isser, A., Domoff, S. E., & Musher-Eizenman, D. R. (2011, October 17). Eating When Bored: Revision of the Emotional Eating Scale With a Focus on Boredom. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025893

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Adelaide

    October 22nd, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Good grief this is me! When i am bored it is as if there is no stopping me. The only thing that helps pass the time is to eat! And I do this all of the time. Why I don’t just get up and go take a walk is beyond me. It always seems as if it is the pantry calling my name and I go weak. Maybe I should invest in a heavy duty padlock and a good pair of walking shoes instead. . .

  • juana

    October 23rd, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    I have lived in many different countries as my parents are missionaries. Through their work I have had the opportunity to live in many different places and to experience many different cultures. The US is the only country where I have lived where eating and food are such big issues! Truly the only place with such high rates of morbid obesity and the only one where food is plentiful and we have easy access to it. I don’t know what is going on here, but I have a hard time eating for the sheer sake of boredom when I know how many thousands die every day from having next to nothing to eat.

  • B. Diaz

    October 23rd, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    Oh boy. I am very guilty of eating when I’m bored. I find myself drifting into the kitchen and opening a bag of chips or the cookie jar. I’m not even remotely hungry too! I graze on them mindlessly while I’m thinking about what I want to do next. Is that still emotional eating? I’m not convinced.

  • faith donovan

    October 23rd, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    I’ve never really thought about eating when I’m bored as being emotional eating. It’s just something I do to pass the time and not exactly a red flag for a negative state of mind or depression, at least not in my case. Perhaps I’m failing to grasp what emotional eating is but I don’t think boredom need come under that heading.

  • Georgia

    October 24th, 2011 at 4:18 AM

    Boredom can definitely get the best of you, so any time I have tried to diet and lose weight I have made an honest effort to always have my mind and body engaged with something to do. This is so I will not sit around thinking about maybe being hungry. I have also taken up walking, as a way to try to curb my hunger. If I think that I am hungry then I will go on a brisk walk and if I am still hungry when I get home then I will have a healthy snack, and going on that walk has then motivated me not to eat junk but to pick something healthy instead.

  • d johansson

    October 24th, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    a lot of people tend to overeat while they are depressed and some others skip their meals while depressed about something.neither of the two is good and can have major effects on your health.The last thing that you want when you already have something to be depressed about is a health issue and if that is not to happen you should take additional care of yourself in times of concern.

  • Scarlett

    October 24th, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Does anyone know if OA addresses the issues associated with emotional eating? Is this the gist of what they are trying to bring to light? I have always been curious about those meetings but have never had the nerve.

  • allyson e

    October 25th, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    I tend to do this at times..eating when bored.this by itself is not a bad thing but what we eat can turn this into a harmful thing.most people tend to eat junk food while they are bored simply because it is easier to procure and to consume.but I have forced myself into the habit of eating fruits whenever I am bored and you will rarely find any junk food at my place!

  • Andrew Y.

    October 25th, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    I’m a late night snacker and I don’t care if I’m in my own home or a buddy’s LOL. No fridge is safe when I’m restless and bored. If I get the munchies I’m in it looking for a tasty morsel.

    The worst thing to keep around the house if you’re like me? Pringles or Stax. Any chips that come in those plastic tubes are too easy to work your way through because they are less noisy than ordinary chips (both the packaging and the food)so you’re not really conscious of what you’re putting away, and the tube’s the perfect size to sit right beside you on the couch or on your desk.

  • Julie Holt, MA

    October 27th, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Eating to relieve anything seems to be a fairly common thing…when we’re hungry we eat to soothe the A thing to remember, though, is that boredom can often mask some other emotion happening.

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