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A new study has revealed the eating habits of people in the UK, finding that one quarter of over 55s rarely eat with friends with many often dining alone.
The research commission by Eden Project initiative, 'The Big Lunch' revealed that the average UK adult eats 10 meals a week alone, while one third of adults go a week without eating a meal with someone.
Often hectic work schedules and busy lives are cited as the main reason for solitary eating, however the study further revealed that the more often people dining with others, the more likely they are to lead happy and satisfied lives.
Professor Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist, evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate and human behaviour. He commented: “The act of eating together triggers the endorphin system in the brain and endorphins play an important role in social bonding in humans.
“Taking the time to sit down together over a meal helps create social networks that in turn have profound effects on our physical and mental health, our happiness and well-being, and even our sense of purpose in life. But this study shows that, in the UK, we are becoming less socially engaged, with almost 50 per cent of meals eaten alone each week. 70 per cent of those questioned said they did not feel especially engaged with their local community, yet eating together did result in people feeling emotionally closer to each other.
“In these increasingly fraught times, when community cohesion is ever more important, making time for and joining in communal meals is perhaps the single most important thing we can do – both for our own health and wellbeing and for that of the wider community."
Over half of workers surveyed said they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ eat lunch with their colleagues, saying the most common obstacle was a large workload with the average weekday lunch being consumed in just 12 minutes.
More than two thirds of those questioned said they have never shared a meal with their neighbours and a further 37 per cent have never eating with a community group. One fifth of those surveyed said it had been more than six months since they shared an evening meal with their parents, a good friend or other family member.
People aged over 55 were found to be the most likely to eat alone with one in four revealing they rarely dined with others.
The study further revealed that although more than half of people regularly eat an evening meal with other people during the week, almost one fifth said it was rare, despite respondents saying that eating with others made them feel closer to each other.
The Big Lunch is an initiative developed by the Eden Project and supported by the Big Lottery Fund. Both the study and the Big Lunch aim to draw attention to UK mealtimes and how often people eat with others.
Established in 2009, The Eden Project’s Big Lunch promotes that idea that people are better equipped to tackle challenges they face together and works to reduce loneliness by bringing communities together and reduce isolation.
Last year’s event saw more than seven million people take part nationwide and this year’s event takes place on Sunday 12 June, the same days Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday.
Peter Stewart of The Big Lunch said: “The Big Lunch wanted to examine how often people eat with others. The amount of solitary meals eaten each week is shocking, especially as the study shows that sharing food helps feelings of closeness and friendship.
"The Big Lunch is about bringing people together to have lunch - to make new friends, share stories, to have fun, and form bonds that last. For most people in the UK, a network of potential friends exists right on the doorstep. An act as simple as joining us on Sunday 12 June to share a meal can bring boundless joy.”
For more information or to request an event planning pack, visit: www.thebiglunch.com or call: 0845 850 8181.