Money worries are causing millions of us to pile on the pounds by comfort eating
Financial problems are causing three quarters of people to ignore diet advice and turn to comfort eating80% of us are choosing cheap food over healthy
09:14 GMT, 18 April 2013
09:14 GMT, 18 April 2013
Money worries are causing millions of cash-strapped Britons to pile on the pounds, according to a new report.
The latest research suggests that growing concerns about the cost of living are causing people to turn to comfort eating when money is tight.
The Weight Watchers study reveals that three quarters of Britons are ignoring diet advice and gorging on unhealthy treats that lift their spirits in gloomy times.
Money worries are causing millions of cash-strapped Britons to pile on the pounds
As a result, the report claims that 18.3 million have put on weight because of their financial situation.
The research also reveals that people are being taken in by the temptation of attractively priced unhealthy foods – eight out of ten cash strapped Britons admit to choosing cheap food over healthy options.
The research is supported by a recent study published in Psychological Science which suggested that people turn to comfort eating at times of crisis or depression, including at times of economic hardship.
Scientists at the University of Miami found that bad news about the economy could cause us to pile on the pounds because we tend to seek higher-calorie foods that will keep us satisfied for longer.
The researchers found that when people are subconsciously primed with messages such as 'live for today,' they consumed nearly 40 per cent more food.
Furthermore, when volunteers were given messages indicating times were hard – but then told the food they were sampling was low-calorie – they ate roughly 25 per cent less food.
Growing concerns about the cost of living are causing people to turn to comfort eating when money is tight
The researchers say this is because if we perceive food resources are scarce, we actively seek out food with a higher calorie content.
'It is clear from the studies that taste was not what caused the reactions, it was a longing for calories,' said lead researcher Juliano Laran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration.
The news follows research from the Mental Health Foundation which suggested that 60 per cent of British adults find their life more stressful than they did five years ago.
A quarter of people said that money worries were the main cause of this increased stress.
But it seems that turning to high calorie foods for comfort is simply exacerbating the problem, with research by University College London suggesting that eating a diet high in processed food can in fact increase the risk of depression.
The study shows that people who eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish actually have a lower risk of depression.
This could explain why Britons are ten times more likely to suffer from depression now than they were in 1945.
Zoe Hellman, Head of Public Health, Weight Watchers said: ‘It is alarming that such a high percentage of Britons are turning to comfort eating when money is tight as weight gain soon becomes another issue to add to their anxiety levels.
‘Eating cheap, calorie laden food can lead to much bigger problems in the long term, such as the serious health risks associated with being overweight or obese.’