Healthy Diets Can Suffer When You Live Alone

03/11/2015 7:21 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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People who live alone are more likely to have a poor diet, a new study has found.

The study, by QUT’s Dr Katherine Hanna and Dr Peter Collins, analysed 41 previous studies to investigate the link between living alone and food and nutrient intake.

Poor cooking ability? Check. No one to shop with? Check. You can see where this is going.

Other reasons cited in the study for the link between living solo and bad dieting habits were the increasing cost of food and less motivation to cook for oneself.

And men are worse culprits than women.

"Our results found that people who live alone have a lower diversity of food intake and a lower consumption of some core food groups like fruits and vegetables and fish," Dr Hanna said.

"The number of individuals living alone in the developed world continues to increase and, in 2010, 23 per cent of households in Australia were lone person households.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, says the cultural and social benefits of eating a meal with others are also big reasons for poor diet choices for lone occupants.

"The absence of support or encouragement to comply with healthy eating guidelines and difficulty in managing portion control were also factors influencing diet," Dr Hanna said.

"A person who is bereaved or divorced may have previously relied on their partner for food preparation and lack the sufficient cooking skills to make healthy meals."

She said economic factors can also explain lower consumption of foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish, as they require more frequent purchase and consumption, which can be expensive.

"The psychological impacts of living alone can also influence diet. Previous research has found loneliness, for example, is a significant predictor of malnutrition in the elderly."

So what can you do to motivate yourself? Dr Hanna has a few tips.

"These include programs that focus on cooking skills for single people on a range of budgets, improved availability of affordable healthy food and developing socially acceptable opportunities for eating in communal settings," she said.

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