Our research investigates the significance of frequent solo consumption of main meals and the association with a holistic wellbeing measure of happiness using data from 39820 Thai Cohort Study members who completed 8-year follow-up in 2013. This nationwide cohort has been under study since 2005 to analyse the dynamics and determinants of the health-risk transition from infectious to chronic diseases. Here we analyse data from the 2009 and 2013 follow-ups.
Approximately 11% reported eating more than half of the main meals per week alone. Sociodemographic attributes associated with eating alone were being male, older age, unmarried, smaller household, lower income, and urban residence. Dissatisfaction with amount of spare time (ie ‘busyness’) was also linked to eating alone. In the multivariate cross-sectional model, reporting being unhappy was associated with frequent solo eating (Adjusted Odds Ratio – AOR 1.54, 95% Confidence Intervals 1.30-1.83). Stratified by age and sex groups, the effects were strongest among females (AOR 1.90 1.52-2.38). A monotonic relationship linked frequent eating alone and 4-year longitudinal unhappiness. The larger the dose of unhappiness the greater the odds of eating alone – AOR 1.29, 1.31, 1.72 after controlling for potential covariates.
Having a meal is not only important for nutritional and health outcomes; it is also a vital part of daily social interaction. Our study provided empirical evidence from a non-Western setting that sharing meals could contribute to increasing happiness.