Hungry behavior

Today, malnutrition is becoming an epidemic. It has a huge effect on the population’s health.  Logically, social outcomes are huge too.  Because we all know: When we’re hungry.. we are not at our best mood.

The effect of malnutrition already starts before birth.  Pregnant women that are suffering from malnutrition tend to have children with behavioral problems later in life. Prenatal malnutrition leads to children with less playful behaviour, whether the children are being malnourished or not. But: Malnourished mothers are more likely to have underweight children. These children will in turn have a higher risk of physical and cognitive impairment. This contributes to the cycle of poverty, because if children do not function well socially, they are less able to work, contribute to local economies, and provide care for their families later in life.

Increased aggressive behavior seems to be a relatively large social consequence of being overweight and malnourished. A high sugar diet seems connected with a high level of hyperactivity within children’s behaviour, while undernourished and underweight children on the other hand show more apathic and nonactive behavior. Malnourished children are known to be less social and less interested in having social relationships with their peers.

The absence of secure relationships can affect physical security. Not having good social relationships in child- and adulthood can result in not feeling safe at home(being shut out) and eventually in feelings of anxiety. Malnutrition thereby is known to cause  people to be at risk for staying single. Obese women have more trouble finding a sexual partner than normal-weight women. Also, these women tend to be at risk for getting pregnant unplanned. On the other hand, being married and malnourished causes people to be less happy in the marriage. This can trigger depression, distorted body image and low self-esteem, which can be a real problem in marriage or other social relationship.

Besides that, malnutrition causes other behavior problems. Bullying, but also being bullied are social outcomes that can affect the population.  One possible, but so far untested, hypothesis is that early malnutrition predisposes to antisocial behavior because malnutrition affects neurocognitive functioning. Considered is that malnutrition slows down the process of learning how to make rational decisions.  This makes malnourished children and adolescents even more sensitive. They are also much more influenced by “emotional context”.  Besides, they seem to be even more sensitive to the advertising of advertising of food than people that do not suffer from malnutrition, and in particular to the large amount of junk food available in Indonesia.

There also seems to be a trend in weight and socio-emotional- and behavioral problems. Bullying, but also being bullied can make people feel excluded or shut out and lonely. The more you weigh, more problems appear. Also, the chance of having anxiety and depressive feelings is growing. The same effects are happening with being underweight. These effects not only have impacts on the social life, but you can imagine that it also has impacts on the behavior at school and work too.

As you can see by building up our blog, the facts of the problems linked and caused by malnutrition in Indonesia are adding up. This growing problem affects all kinds of aspects of the life of the Indonesian population. We hope this makes clear that it must really be a priority in Indonesia to address this double burden of disease.

Written by Eline


Hernandes AS, Almeida SS. Postnatal Protein Malnutrition Affects Inhibitory Avoidance and Risk Assessment Behaviors in Two Models of Anxiety in Rats. 2013. Pp. 213-219

Liu, J., Raine, A., Venables, P. H., & Mednick, S. A. (2004). Malnutrition at age 3 years and externalizing behavior problems at ages 8, 11, and 17 years. American Journal of Psychiatry161(11), 2005-2013.

Almeida, S. D. S., Tonkiss, J., & Galler, J. R. (1996). Prenatal protein malnutrition affects the social interactions of juvenile rats. Physiology & behavior60(1), 197-201.

Wester M. (2006) Sociale aspecten van overgewicht bij kinderen.  Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Available from

Seipel, M. M. (1999). Social consequences of malnutrition. Social Work44(5), 416-425.


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