Food restriction and the experience of social isolation

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Sep;119(3):657-671. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000223. Epub 2019 Nov 14.


Across 7 studies, food restrictions increased loneliness by limiting the ability to bond with others through similar food consumption. We first found that food restrictions predict loneliness using observer- and self-reports among children and adults (Studies 1-3). Next, we found mediation by the experience of worry and moderation by eating similar food as others. When restricted individuals were unable to bond over a meal (i.e., they ate different vs. the same food as others), they worried. These "food worries" mediated the effect of restrictions on loneliness (Studies 4 and 5). Moving to controlled experiments, manipulating the presence of a food restriction for unrestricted individuals increased reported loneliness (Study 6). This effect replicated in an experiment that capitalized on a naturally occurring food restriction-the holiday of Passover-where Jewish observers were restricted from eating chametz (leavened food; Study 7). Overall, while both food restrictions and loneliness are on the rise; this research found they may be related epidemics. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety* / psychology
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness* / psychology
  • Male
  • Social Isolation*