Record numbers of millennials are unmarried, and while most single millennials live with roommates, the new American Dream is to live alone. But living alone comes with downsides. In addition to the obvious drawback—struggling to earn enough by yourself to pay that ever increasing rent—there's a new problem: You'll eat like shit.
According to a new report by a team of Australian researchers at Queensland University of Technology, solo dwellers tend to eat the same things over and over, shun fish, and don't get enough fruits and vegetables. If male, their habits tended to be somewhat worse than if they were female.
The report controlled for differences in education and socioeconomic status, and included all ages, not just millennials. According to the full report, published by Nutrition Reviews, one factor other than demographics could be simple peer pressure. "The impact of the presence of others when eating also should be considered," the report points out. Adding, "Living alone also entails an absence of social constraints around what constitutes a proper meal."
In other words, when no one's looking, you might not eat that blanched kale instead of that whole box of microwaveable White Castle sliders.
The meta-analysis looked at studies involving good eating habits and bad eating habits, defining them in several different ways: "food group intake; nutrient intake; a summary score of food and/or nutrient intake; and food-based analysis of dietary patterns." The researchers had to look at results across all types of dietary measurements, because there's not one single measure for "eating like shit," that can be seen in higher rates for people who live alone. However, this report shows that whatever desirable behavior you're trying to measure, solo people tend not to do it as much.
The results are a small window into a group of somewhat mysterious findings published in the past couple of years. In 2013, research into mortality rates showed that people 52 and older who lived alone had higher rates of mortality from all causes, and not just from what you might think—suicide and depression. Similar studies place the actual increase in risk of dying at 45 percent for people who live alone.
A report last year by Pew about the challenges of living alone touched on food as well. A woman they interviewed who had recently stopped living alone told them "It's all about convenience, and if you can afford to live by yourself, you have everything you need right there. You never have to leave your apartment."
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