"Maybe it's not just the food?" A food and mood focus group study

Megan Lee*, Douglas Angus, Hayley Walsh, Sally Sargeant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
193 Downloads (Pure)


Epidemiological and intervention studies in nutritional psychiatry suggest that the risk of mood disorders is associated with what we eat. However, few studies use a person-centred approach to explore the food and mood relationship. In this qualitative study of 50 Australian participants, we explored individuals’ experiences with food and mood as revealed during focus group discussions.
Using a thematic template analysis, we identified three themes in the food and mood relationship:(i) social context: familial and cultural influences of food and mood, (ii) social economics: time, finance, and food security, and (iii) food nostalgia: unlocking memories that impact mood. Participants suggested that
nutrients, food components or food patterns may not be the only way that food impacts mood. Rather, they described the social context of who, with, and where food is eaten, and that time, finances, and access to healthy fresh foods and bittersweet memories of foods shared with loved ones all impacted
their mood. Findings suggest that quantitative studies examining the links between diet and mood should look beyond nutritional factors and give increased attention to the cultural, social, economic, and identity aspects of diet.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2011
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2023


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