June 16, 2018 10:01:36 PM
For some, eating alone can be a joyous thing: forking mouthfuls of pasta straight from the pan or peanut butter licked off a spoon. But regularly eating meals in isolation is a different story. This one factor is more strongly associated with unhappiness than any other apart from (unsurprisingly) having a mental illness.
This is according to a new study by Oxford Economics that found, in a survey of 8,250 British adults, that people who always eat alone score 7.9 points lower, in terms of happiness, than the national average.
This research is far from the first to suggest a link between eating with others and happiness. Researchers at the University of Oxford last year found that the more that people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives. The study also found that people who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves and have wider social and emotional support networks.
Robin Dunbar, a professor of psychology, worked on the Oxford University study. He says that "we simply don't know" why people who eat together are happier. But it is clear that this is a regular social ritual, a moment of union and communion in our often chaotic lives. It can be a place of conversation, storytelling and closeness.
Our face-to-face relationships are, quite literally, a matter of life or death.
"One of the biggest predictors of physical and mental health problems is loneliness," says Nick Lake, joint director for psychology and psychological therapy at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. "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." ...
Human beings are biologically engineered for human interaction -- and particularly face-to-face interaction. 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. The study also found that those who made social contact with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms. ...
"We are the most social of all the animals," says Professor Paul Gilbert, a psychologist and the founder of compassion-focused therapy. "Our brains and our bodies are built to be regulated through interactions with others from the day that we are born."
Editor's note: The May 23 "Friend Effect" story by The Guardian was shared via The Rundown news roundup by Jeff Criley. Read the complete article at theguardian.com/society/2018/may/23/the-friend-effect-why-the-secret-of-health-and-happiness-is-surprisingly-simple.