Younger Kids Eat 79 Percent More When They Are Bored: Study

by Ella

Aston University’s latest study reveals that young children, as young as four years old, consume a staggering 79% more calories when they experience boredom compared to when they are in a neutral emotional state.

The research found that, on average, children consumed 95 kilocalories (kcal) during episodes of boredom, even when they were already full. In contrast, their counterparts in a neutral emotional state consumed just 59 kcal.


Dr. Rebecca Stone, who led the study, voiced concern over the implications of these findings, saying, “If children are eating this many more calories during one instance of boredom induced in a laboratory (a four-minute period), given that boredom is a commonly experienced emotion in children, the potential for excess calorie intake in response to being bored across one day, one week, or one year, is potentially very significant in a food-abundant environment.”


Moreover, the research highlighted that when parents frequently use food to soothe their child’s emotions and when their child exhibits heightened emotional sensitivity, the calorie intake during boredom spikes dramatically. In such cases, children consumed five times more kilocalories when bored.


The study underlines the complex interplay of various factors in shaping children’s dietary behaviors, including genetics, temperament, and feeding practices. It’s often observed that children turn to eating when experiencing emotions like boredom or sadness, and adults frequently employ food as a means of comfort, thereby teaching children to rely on food when their mood is low—a practice known as emotional feeding.


To conduct the study, the research team collected insights from parents regarding the feeding strategies they used with their children and inquired about their child’s temperament. Children and their parents were provided with a standard meal and were allowed to eat until they felt full.

Dr. Stone cautioned against attempting to eliminate boredom entirely but advocated for children to learn how to manage boredom without resorting to food. Parents are encouraged to redirect their child’s attention away from food and consider modifying the home food environment to reduce the likelihood of food becoming a boredom-driven response.

This study assumes significance against the backdrop of rising childhood obesity rates in the United States. According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have tripled since the 1980s, impacting nearly 15 million children nationwide—nearly one in five kids. Addressing the role of emotions and food intake, as highlighted in this study, could offer a valuable perspective in efforts to combat childhood obesity.



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