Introduction: The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between food and mood against the backdrop of increased mental health and nutrition cognizance within public health and scientific discourses. Mood was defined as encompassing positive or negative affect.
Methodology: A constructionist qualitative approach underpinned this study. Convenience sampling in two faith-based settings was utilised for recruiting participants, who were aged 19-80 (median,48) years. In total 22 Christian women were included in the research, eighteen were in focus groups and four were in individual semi structured interviews. All were church-attending women in inner London. A thematic analysis was carried out, resulting in four central themes relating to food choice and food-induced mood states.
Findings: Women identified a number of internal and external factors as influencing their food choices and the effect of food intake on their moods. Food choice was influenced by mood; mood was influenced by food choice. Low mood was associated with unhealthy food consumption, apparent addiction to certain foods and overeating. Improved mood was associated with more healthy eating and eating in social and familial settings.
Discussion: Findings indicate food and mood are interconnected through a complex web of factors, as women respond to individual, environmental, cultural and social cues. Targeting socio-cultural and environmental influences and developing supportive public health services, via faith-based or community-based institutions could help to support more women in their struggle to manage the food and mood continuum. Successful implementation of health policies that recognise the psychological and social determinants of food choice and the effect of food consumption on mood, is essential, as is as more research into life-cycle causal factors linking food choice to mood