Dining alone can lead to something worse than heartburn — it could boost your risk for heart disease and diabetes, a new study found.
Men, in particular, who ate alone at least twice a day are more likely to have metabolic syndrome than their social-dining peers, the study found.
The authors of the study, published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, wrote that in many parts of the world, families have become smaller and that there are more single-person households than in the past.
“At the same time,” they noted, “eating patterns have become irregular, informal and individualized in the form of more eating alone.”
For the study, nearly 8,000 South Korean adults were asked how often they ate alone. The researchers compared their responses to health data — adjusting for factors like age, lifestyle choices, education levels, job status and exercise.
They found that men who often ate alone had a 45% increased risk of obesity and a 64% increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
But women who ate alone at the same rate were only 29% more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those who always dined with someone else.
University of British Columbia professor Annalijn Conklin told the magazine that the findings for women as well and factors such as stress, sleep quality and loneliness, need to be researched further.
“Having more sensitive measures of stressful life events might help unpack some of the association a little better,” Conklin told Time. “We know that sleep deprivation and stress create a vicious loop that alters eating behavior, and it could be one of the things driving the experience of eating alone and of metabolic syndrome.”