Ann Geriatr Med Res.  2021 Mar;25(1):17-24. 10.4235/agmr.20.0093.

Eating Alone and Cognitive Decline in Korean Older Adults: A 3-Year Prospective Study

  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital, Hallym University College of Medicine, Anyang, Korea
  • 2Department of Statistics and Institute of Statistics, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea
  • 3Department of Family Medicine, Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital, Seoul, Korea


Eating alone is a critical factor in nutritional risk screening among older adults. We investigated whether changes in eating status (eating alone or with others) in late-life affected cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults.
We used data from the Survey of the Living Conditions and Welfare Needs of Korean Older Persons. Nutritional risk, including eating status, was assessed using seven questions from the Nutrition Screening Initiative checklist, and cognitive function was measured using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). On the basis of changes in eating status between baseline (2008) and the 3-year follow-up (2011), the subjects were divided into four groups: group 1 (eating with others at both visits), group 2 (eating alone in 2008 and eating with others in 2011), group 3 (eating with others in 2008 and eating alone in 2011), and group 4 (eating alone at both visits). Generalized linear models were used to compare the changes in MMSE scores over the 3-year period among the four groups.
Among older women, group 2 had the least decline in MMSE scores (-0.55±0.46), whereas group 3 had the greatest decline (-1.76±0.37) (p=0.034). We observed no difference in the change in MMSE scores among the four eating groups in older men.
Deprivation of mealtime partners in late life enhanced cognitive decline compared with gaining mealtime partners. Eating alone may be a risk factor for cognitive impairment; thus, meal programs reinforcing social integration might help preserve cognitive function.


Aged; Cognition; Eating
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