Dietary Restrictions Make For Lonely Dining, Study Finds
Shared meals are an essential part of our social routines. Birthdays, weddings, and even first dates are often marked with shared dining experiences. But a recent study has found that people with dietary restrictions may actually be losing out when it comes to these social regularities.
The study, from Cornell University, found that people with dietary restrictions tend to experience more loneliness than others.
"Despite being physically present with others, having a food restriction leaves people feeling left out because they are not able to take part in bonding over the meal," said Kaitlin Woolley, Ph.D., lead author on the study and an assistant professor at Cornell's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that rising food restrictions may even be related to the "loneliness epidemic."
Woolley's previous work helped lay the groundwork for the importance of sharing meals in our society. She found that people were more likely to trust strangers after having shared a meal and that cooperation could be increased in a group by sharing food from the same plate.
They say that these impacts are related to the experience of "food worry," wherein people worry about what they may be able to eat or that they will experience judgment for their dietary restrictions.
Compared with nonrestricted eaters, those who maintain a specific diet or have allergies reported 19% more loneliness, and the degree of loneliness was not related to the severity of their restrictions.
"This is a problem that I don't think people are quite aware of," said Woolley, "and that has implications for people's ability to connect with others over eating."
In the study, 30% of participants had some form of dietary restrictions. The report was based on seven studies and experiments and assessed the impact on both adults and children. They found that the levels of loneliness reported were similar to those reported by unmarried adults and children in schools who did not speak English as their native language.
Previous research, according to Woolley, has focused on children. As restricted diets, intolerances, and allergies are more frequently carried into adulthood, more research into the social impact of these diets is required.
If you're cooking for a group that has dietary restrictions, there's no reason you can't cater to everyone's dietary needs. We have plenty of delicious recipes for all the vegans, vegetarians, keto keepers, and paleo people in your life.
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