Elderly men should eat their meals with family and friends, or they may not live as long as they wish.
This seems to be the bottom line of a study by a group of Japanese researchers.
The study, conducted by researchers at Tokyo Medical and Dental University and other institutions, showed that elderly men who live with family members but dine alone have a higher mortality rate than those who eat with their family.
The research, which monitored the lives of men aged 65 and older over three years, found that the mortality rate was 50 percent higher for men who lived with family members but ate alone than those who dined with family.
“We presumed that eating alone may affect their mortality and proved it in our study,” said the group’s leader, Yukako Tani, a researcher at Tokyo Medical and Dental University.
Out of 29,182 men surveyed who lived with family members and dined with them, 1,759, or 6 percent, died during the three-year period. But the figure for men who lived with family but dined alone was 9.5 percent, or 156 out of 1,645 men, it showed.
The survey also showed that 7.3 percent of men who lived and dined alone died during the survey period, about 20 percent higher than those who lived and dined with family.
In a previous study, Tani and her fellow researchers found that men who lived by themselves and didn’t normally dine with family members are more likely to suffer from depression.
“This tendency was also observed in men who lived with their family and relatives but eat by themselves,” she said by telephone, explaining that dining alone may also affect a man’s mental state.
In the study, the researchers also suggested that eating alone despite living with family members may reflect abuse or inadequate care.
Tani’s group also found that elderly men who ate by themselves often had malnutrition, which leads to poor health and low body weight. But the study also showed that elderly women aren’t affected in the same way.
“It’s only an assumption, but women appear to be more capable of preparing a balanced diet and are less likely to become undernourished,” Tani said.
She added that women are more sociable and seek more opportunities to socialize with other people outside their home.
The researchers conducted the study on 71,781 elderly men and women who didn’t need assistance from family members to walk, bathe or go to the bathroom.
“To maintain the health of elderly people, it may be effective to encourage them to eat with family, friends and neighbors, or for municipalities to host dining events,” the researchers said. “Elderly men who ate alone even though they live with family members should also be the target of such events.”
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