As someone who lives by himself, let me just say my cognitive dissonance is off the charts.
According to a new study from the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, people who live the solitary life maintain far worse diets than people with roommates.
Researchers believe the effect stems from a combination of laziness and economics. Since healthy foods are perishable and hard to consume all at once, not to mention time-consuming to prepare, many singletons look to cheap microwaveable foods for sustenance.
The trend of living alone has been on the rise in the US since the 1920s. Back then, only 5% of people lived alone. Today, 27% do. That rise coincides, perhaps indirectly, with the nation’s ongoing obesity epidemic. Today, more than two-thirds of the country is overweight or obese.
The new research suggests there may be a connection to people’s living situation.
For example, a person who is bereaved or divorced may have previously relied on their late partner to prepare meals, said co-author of the study Dr. Katherine Hanna, professor in QUT’s school of exercise and nutrition sciences, in a statement.
“The absence of support or encouragement to comply with healthy eating guidelines and difficulty in managing portion control were also factors influencing diet,” Hanna said.
To carry out their study, Hanna and her colleagues analysed 41 past studies on the relationship between people’s living situation and their eating habits. They found people who lived alone ate a smaller diversity of foods and lower overall quantity of healthy food groups, like fruits and vegetables.
Diet isn’t the only casualty of the solitary life.
Researchers have repeatedly found that regular social interaction keeps us healthy. When demographers investigate how the people with the longest life spans fly past their 100th birthdays, they find a strong sense of community keeps cropping up.
Be they neighbours, roommates, or loved ones, the takeaway is the same. People need people.
On the other hand, living alone does have one obvious upside. With no one around to cast judgment, people are free to be weird. They can run in place during commercials, talk to themselves, and implement a de facto no-pants law.
But, alas, as the latest research suggests, they can also sink their hands into a family-sized bag of chips, call it dinner, and face exactly zero consequences.
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