Eating Alone: Should You Worry If You Do It Often

By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore

We all have days when it’s easier to eschew a crowd and just pop out for lunch alone. Or dinner. Or any meal, for that matter. But what if it’s started to become a pattern? When friends call you out for a bite, you either flake or decline. When colleagues ask you along for lunchtime, you tell them you’ve brought food to work, or dabaoed, as we Singaporeans call it. And of course, you hate wedding dinners, preferring to just send the angpow and pass.

Well, the solo life might be abit more fuss-free, but according to a new study by Oxford economics reported in the Guardian, you’re also likely to be unhappy. In a survey of 8.250 adults, it was found the the folks who always eat alone scored 7.9 points lower in terms of happiness than the British national average!

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Robin Dunbar, a professor of psychology who worked on the Oxford University study, says:”At a psychological level, having friends just makes you happier.”

“The kinds of things that you do around the table with other people are very good at triggering the endorphin system, which is part of the brain’s pain-management system. Endorphins are opioids, they are chemically related to morphine – they are produced by the brain and give you an opiate high. That’s what you get when you do all this social stuff, including patting, cuddling and stroking. It is central to the way primates in general bond in their social groups and relationships”, Dunbar adds.

Dr Nick Lake, joint director for psychology and psychological therapy at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, adds: “That makes sense to people when they think of mental health. But the evidence is also clear that if you are someone who is lonely and isolated, your chance of suffering a major long-term condition such as coronary heart disease or cancer is also significantly increased, to the extent that it is almost as big a risk factor as smoking.”

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Apparently the solo life can also determine whether or not you’d survive after a heart attack. “The best two predictors, by a long way, are the number and quality of friends you have and giving up smoking,” Dunbar reveals. “You can eat as much as you like, you can slob about, you can drink as much alcohol as you like – the effect is very modest compared with these other two factors.”

Social media isn’t helping either. One study from the University of Michigan found that replacing face-to-face contact with friends and family with messages on social media, emails or text messages could double our risk of depression!

So seriously, for the #foreveralone folks, it might be time to come out of your shells, turn off Instagram and Facebook, and jio (yes, another Singaporean slang) one of your pals out for a meal!

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