Korean J Fam Pract. 2017; 7(6): 904-908  https://doi.org/10.21215/kjfp.2017.7.6.904
Eating Alone among Korean Elderly Association with Depressive Symptoms: The Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination, 2013
Jeong Sook Yang, Eun Jin Bae*, Ji Eun Hong, Joonil Kang, Won Jin Jeon
Department of Family Medicine, Daedong Hospital, Busan, Korea
Eun Jin Bae
Tel: +82-51-550-9300, Fax: +82-51-553-7575
E-mail: buxbunny@hanmail.net
Received: March 13, 2017; Revised: August 3, 2017; Accepted: August 11, 2017; Published online: December 20, 2017.
© The Korean Academy of Family Medicine. All rights reserved.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Background: Eating alone is becoming an important social issue, and simultaneously, Korea is rapidly turning into an aged society. However, little research has focused on eating alone and its effect on depressive symptoms, quality of life (QOL), and activities of daily living (ADL) in Korean elderly.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study to examine the relationship of eating alone with depressive symptoms, QOL, and ADL in Korean elderly. The study population consisted of 1,111 Korean elderly aged 65 to 80 years (men, 472; women, 639). A chi-square test and Student’s t-test were conducted to compare geriatric functions and QOL between who ate alone and those who ate with others. The association between eating alone and depressive symptoms was analyzed by a multivariate logistic regression analysis, with eating alone/eating with others as the dependent variable. P-value<0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance.
Results: In the study, proportion of those usually eating alone, 76.5% ate with others but lived alone, and 9.6% ate alone but lived with others. In terms of depressive symptoms, QOL, and activities of daily living, higher rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts were found among those eating alone. Also, the higher rate of depressive and anxiety symptoms with statistical significance and the lower rate of mobility was found in the population of eating alone.
Conclusion: Findings revealed that the elderly who ate alone had a higher rate of depressive and anxiety symptoms as compared to those who ate with others.
Keywords: Eating Alone; Korean Elderly; Depression; Anxiety
  1. Population sensus [Internet]. Daejeon: Korean Statistical Information Service;2015. [cited 2017 Feb 17].
  2. Household by sensus [Internet]. Daejeon: Korean Statistical Information Service; 2015. [cited 2017 Feb 17].
  3. Luppa M, Heinrich S, Angermeyer MC, König HH, Riedel-Heller SG. Costofillness studies of depression: a systematic review. J Affect Disord 2007; 98:29-43.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  4. Kimura Y, Wada T, Okumiya K, Ishimoto Y, Fukutomi E, Kasahara Y, et al. Eating alone among community-dwelling Japanese elderly: association with depression and food diversity. J Nutr Health Aging 2012; 16: 728-31.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  5. Wang X, Shen W, Wang C, Zhang X, Xiao Y, He F, et al. Association between eating alone and depressive symptom in elders: a cross-sectional study. BMC Geriatr 2016; 16: 19.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  6. Engel JH, Siewerdt F, Jackson R, Akobundu U, Wait C, Sahyoun N. Hardiness, depression, and emotional well-being and their association with appetite in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc 2011; 59: 482-7.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  7. Okamoto K, Harasawa Y, Shiraishi T, Sakuma K, Momose Y. Much communication with family and appetite among elderly persons in Japan. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2007; 45: 319-26.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  8. Vesnaver E, Keller HH. Social influences and eating behavior in later life: a review. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr 2011; 30: 2-23.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  9. Kimura Y, Wada T, Ishine M, Ishimoto Y, Kasahara Y, Konno A, et al. Food diversity is closely associated with activities of daily living, depression, and quality of life in community-dwelling elderly people. J Am Geriatr Soc 2009;57: 922-4.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  10. Kimura Y, Okumiya K, Sakamoto R, Ishine M, Wada T, Kosaka Y, et al. Comprehensive geriatric assessment of elderly highlanders in Qinghai, China IV:comparison of food diversity and its relation to health of Han and Tibetan elderly. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2009; 9: 359-65.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  11. Torres CC, Mclntosh WA, Kubena KS. Social network and social background characteristics of elderly who live and eat alone. J Aging Health 1992; 4: 564-78.
  12. Locher JL, Ritchie CS, Roth DL, Sen B, Vickers KS, Vailas LI. Food choice among homebound older adults: motivations and perceived barriers. J Nutr Health Aging 2009; 13: 659-64.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  13. German L, Kahana C, Rosenfeld V, Zabrowsky I, Wiezer Z, Fraser D, et al. Depressive symptoms are associated with food insufficiency and nutritional deficiencies in poor community-dwelling elderly people. J Nutr Health Aging 2011; 15: 3-8.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  14. Shin SK, Kim HJ, Choi BY, Lee SS. A comparison of food frequency for the elderly regarding different family types: based on community health survey for 2008. Korean J Nutr 2012; 45: 264-73.

This Article