Eating alone increases chance of depression

Janice Hong, June 30, 2016, 9:37 a.m.

An international journal recently published a South Korean survey showing that people, especially men, who eat dinner alone have more than double the chance of suffering from depression. The International Journal of Social Psychiatry last week published an article discussing the odds of depression associated with one’s dinner companions, citing data from South Korea’s Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2014.

The survey on 4,181 adults showed those who ate dinner alone rather than with family members were 1 1/2 times more likely to suffer from depression.

The prevalence of depression in those eating alone was higher among men by 2.4 times when comparing those who usually dine alone and those accompanied by family. People who ate alone, despite having other family members around, also had a 1.6-fold higher chance of being depressed.

Depression in the research was measured by using the Patient Health Questionnaire, a multipurpose instrument for screening, diagnosing, monitoring and measuring the severity of depression developed by Pfizer.

The researchers said the lone diners have a higher risk of suffering from solitude or depression by lacking the chance to relieve stress and communicate.

The team also explained that the higher risk seen among men shows men are more dependent on expressing their thoughts and emotions through sharing meals.

Professor Kim Tae-hyun, one of the authors of the study, said there was also analysis showing that individuals who eat dinner alone due to their busy work schedule or familial conflict can feel higher degrees of depression than those who live alone and are accustomed to eating alone.

“Support from one’s family has been reported to have a positive effect on depression severity. Hence, family dinnertimes, when the whole family can gather together, can be effective for depression by providing support from family,” the IJSP said.  

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