Living alone can be hard enough. You're picking up rent and the internet bill on your own, the place smells weird to the rare guest who pays a visit, and your couch has slowly started to mold to your body. Likely coming as no surprise to those whose diets primarily consist of Seamless, ramen, and bowls of leftover rice doused in a blend of hot sauces, a recent survey of studies examining nutrition and eating habits has found that those who live alone are more likely to have lousy diets.
Australian researchers at the University of Queensland examined 41 studies and found that people who live alone are more likely to eat badly for a number of reasons. As Tech Times reports, lack of cooking knowledge and motivation, rising prices for food, and not having a companion with whom to make trips to the store all contributed to a poor diet. And as anyone who's tried to make a killer meal for one can attest, purchasing portions in single serving sizes can be hard.
Cooking for one can be a lot of work for a lonely reward.
Food preparation and meal times play important cultural and social roles, and living on one's own can be a barrier to healthy eating. People who live alone are more likely to eat ready-made meals and to not get enough fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and, consequently, key nutrients.
"Economic factors also explain lower consumption of foods like fruits and vegetables and fish, as they require more frequent purchase and consumption, which can be expensive," Dr. Katherine Hanna, a co-author of the study, told The Australian.
And the problem isn't just a symptom of bachelor pad woes, though men that live alone are more likely to eat poorly than women who live on their own. Widows, widowers, and people who are recently divorced are likewise particularly affected, as they may have previously relied on a spouse or a companion to prepare meals. The elderly are vulnerable to poor eating habits, too.
"The psychological impacts of living alone can also influence diet," Hanna told Medical Xpress. "Previous research has found loneliness, for example, is a significant predictor of malnutrition in the elderly."
The population of people who live alone is diverse and growing around the world, but some common problems led to unhealthy habits across groups, such as not having company to monitor your habits, struggling with portion control, or eating too much of the same thing.
"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," Hanna said.
Hanna thinks accessible and easy cooking classes fit for a variety of budgets could help. Learning how to work the stove instead of the microwave keypad could be a start, as would increased availability of affordable healthy food.
So, too, could be the opportunity to eat in social settings—you know, getting out more. Maybe those four-day-old leftovers can wait another night.