Eating is more than just a way to meet the nutritional needs of the body. Sharing a meal is a cornerstone of social activity in all societies. Eating meals with other people can help reinforce positive eating habits, and nowhere is this more evident than in the family unit, where children are more likely to have healthier diets if the family regularly eat together.
With the increase in single-person households, researchers are now asking if this presents a growing risk of a nutritionally disadvantaged group of people.
When people plan to eat alone, the meal will typically take less time to prepare and that could mean it is less likely to be nutritionally balanced, especially if convenience foods are opted for.
To explore the link between diet quality and eating alone, Korean researchers looked at the eating, health and demographic factors of over 8,000 Korean adults who were part of the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The top line finding from the study was that the diet quality of people who ate alone was lower compared to people who usually dined with others. The link was seen in both males and females.
A person’s education level, income and occupation were also important in predicting the quality of their diet. White collar workers and people with higher levels of education were more likely to have a better diet when living alone.
Because the study used a cross-sectional snapshot of the population, it cannot prove that living alone was the reason for having a poor diet, although the link is a plausible one to consider.
The number of people who eat alone is increasing due to changes in our modern lifestyle. This could lead to serious health problems in the future if it translates into poorer diets for such people.
For those living alone, it pays to invest the time in preparing good quality meals or better yet, to seek out the company of others on regular occasions.