Men, Women Have Same Urge to handle Covid Related Stress by Drinking, Eating Chocolate, Israeli study finds

Facing the risk of infection with a deadly virus, unemployment and financial loss, as well as isolation from family since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many Israelis looked for consolation and stress relief to chocolate and alcohol. 

It is well known that the body uses dark chocolate to produce the mood-elevating substance called serotonin – the “happiness hormone” that promotes the production of endorphins, the brain chemicals that create feelings of pleasure. In addition, sugar in the chocolate also plays a role, because insulin released in response to the sugar promotes the journey of the tryptophan to the brain where it engenders positive feelings. 

Drinking alcohol also triggers the release of endorphins in certain areas of the brain, which may help explain why some people drink more than others. But alcohol is a tricky substance, because while it makes people feel relaxed and usually improves their mood, it’s also classified as a depressant and can exacerbate feelings of anxiety.

Scientists have believed that men consume alcohol to lift their spirits while women would eat chocolate. But according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheba, it turns out that during the current pandemic, both men and women are turning to the same things at the same rate to relieve stress. 

Dr. Enav Friedmann, head of the marketing lab at the business administration department in BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, found that both genders have been consuming chocolate and alcohol at the same rates since last spring. Working with Dr. Gil Peleg from Yeshiva University in New York and Gal Gutman, a doctoral student in Friedmann’s lab, this is surprising.

“Even after years of research that stressed the biological differences between the sexes, we were surprised to discover that the default choice amongst both sexes was to act similarly. The stress allows us, in effect, to see the automatic behavior stripped of its gendered expectations,” she said. “The stress causes people to be flooded with emotions that neutralize ‘gendered consumer behavior.’ Our research undermines the commonly accepted perceptions of various stereotypical behaviors,” she added. 

Friedmann conducted a survey amongst 115 people from the UK (46 men and 69 women) and an additional experiment in Israel on 41 people in which special sensors that measured facial responses were also utilized. The research is ongoing to determine whether the results will change as the pandemic shifts in the future. 






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