Turning to Food in the Face of Loneliness

Principal Investigator:
Shailendra Pratap Jain, University of Washington

Co-Investigators:
Aylin Aydinli, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Ernest Baskin, Saint Joseph’s University
Lan Nguyen Chaplin, University of Illinois at Chicago
Fang-Chi Lu, University of Melbourne
Nurit Nobel, Stockholm School of Economics
Jayati Sinha, Florida International University
Amount: $1,500.00

Loneliness, a multi-faceted phenomenon incorporating social and emotional dimensions, is a pervasive and global issue that poses a serious risk to one’s psychological and physical well-being. While previous research has shown that loneliness is associated with poor dietary choices such as increased intake of unhealthy food and heightened risk of eating disorders, little is known about how loneliness shapes the meaning of food as a coping mechanism. A nuanced view of loneliness and its  influence on food consumption can broaden our understanding of food as a positive coping mechanism for loneliness. This research investigates how consumers compensate for specific types of loneliness, social or emotional, by opting for food products that are imbued with social or emotional meanings, referred to as social foods and nostalgic foods, respectively. The proposed relationships will be examined using a multi-method approach that combines field experiments, lab experiments, and text analysis. Together, the results of this research will contribute to both the loneliness and the compensatory consumption literatures by investigating loneliness’s link to food products associated with specific characteristics.

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