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Nutr Res Pract. 2015 Oct;9(5):523-9. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2015.9.5.523. Epub 2015 Sep 1.

Perceptions and practices of commensality and solo-eating among Korean and Japanese university students: A cross-cultural analysis.

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Department of Food and Nutrition, Gachon University, Gyeonggi 461-701, Korea.
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health, Australian National University, Building 62, Mills Road, Acton, ACT, 2601, Australia.
Research Evaluation Team, Korea Health Promotion Foundation, Namsan Square, Seoul 100-705, Korea.
Department of Nutrition and Life Science, Kanagawa Institute of Technology, Kanagawa 243-0392, Japan.



Commensality, eating together with others, is a major representation of human sociality. In recent time, environments around commensality have changed significantly due to rapid social changes, and the decline of commensality is perceived as a serious concern in many modern societies. This study employs a cross-cultural analysis of university students in two East Asian countries, and examines cross-cultural variations of perceptions and actual practices of commensality and solo-eating.


The analysis was drawn from a free-list survey and a self-administrative questionnaires of university students in urban Korea and Japan. The free-listing survey was conducted with a small cohort to explore common images and meanings of commensality and solo-eating. The self-administrative questionnaire was developed based on the result of the free-list survey, and conducted with a larger cohort to examine reasons and problems of practices and associated behaviors and food intake.


We found that Korean subjects tended to show stronger associations between solo-eating and negative emotions while the Japanese subjects expressed mixed emotions towards the practice of solo-eating. In the questionnaire, more Korean students reported they prefer commensality and tend to eat more quantities when they eat commensally. In contrast, more Japanese reported that they do not have preference on commensality and there is no notable difference in food quantities when they eat commensally and alone. Compared to the general Korean cohort finding, more proportion of overweight and obese groups of Korean subjects reported that they tend to eat more when they are alone than normal and underweight groups. This difference was not found in the overweight Japanese subjects.


Our study revealed cross-cultural variations of perceptions and practices of commensality and solo-eating in a non-western setting.


Commensality; cross-cultural study; cultural consensus analysis; solo-eating; university students

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