Lead author Jordan Troisi, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo, and co-author Shira Gabriel, say in an experiment to make study participants feel lonely, they had them write for six minutes about a fight with someone close to them. Some were then assigned an emotionally neutral writing assignment, while others were assigned to write about eating a comfort food and others were assigned to write about eating a new food. All participants completed questions about levels of loneliness.
Those generally secure in their relationships were able to rescue themselves from loneliness by writing about a comfort food.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found comfort foods were consistently associated with those people close to them -- so thinking about or consuming these foods serves as a reminder of those close to them.
"Throughout everyone's daily lives they experience stress, often associated with our connections with others," Troisi says in a statement. "Comfort food can serve as a ready-made, easy resource for remedying a sense of loneliness."