Americans have never been as lonely as they are today, figures show, and it could be because something which used to be a staple feature is now missing from many US homes. 

Prompted by changing culinary cultures and the urban housing crisis, the death of the dining room has left many residents without a space to share a meal. 

Experts say its led to an increase in the number of people eating alone and spending time in isolation - a crucial driver of America's loneliness epidemic. 

Executive director of the Center for Building in North America Stephen Smith said the decline of the dining room is partly down to a growing appetite for other home features at the expense of this once-central space. 

'It's not that Americans don't want dining rooms. It's that they want something else, and that takes up space,' he told The Atlantic

Real estate developer and floor-plan expert Bobby Fijan said the priorities of modern homeowners and renters include larger bedroom spaces and walk-in closets. 

'For the most part, apartments are built for Netflix and chill,' he told The Atlantic. 

Homes have also been shrinking in size. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of one-person households more than tripled from 1940 to 2020, and for these type of apartments the dining room is the first thing to go. 

'In a single-family home, that's a great room, and so that's what developers build' Smith said of the walled-off dining space. 

 'When you can only build small apartments with one wall of windows, rooms will naturally disappear,' he said. 'Nobody wants a dining room without a window.'

An estimated that 37.9million Americans were living alone in 2022, up 4.8million — or 15 percent — from the numbers in 2012, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published earlier this year.

It also found that the proportion of the adult population living in single-person households had doubled since the 1960s — from 13 percent to more than 29 percent. 

The report warned there was an 'increased risk of adverse mental health' for those living alone — adding that people living alone were 64 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who live with others.

Experts have called the shift the 'biggest demographic change in the last century' — saying it is being driven by surging divorce rates and more economic independence among women.

For the report, researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) — which interviews 100,000 Americans every year on their living standards, including whether they live alone.

They also found that middle-aged adults — aged between 45 and 64 years old — made up the largest proportion of adults living alone, followed by those aged 30 to 44 years.

At the other end of the scale, those aged 18 to 29 years old made up the smallest proportion of people living on their own.

A total of 43.2 percent had an income at about 400 percent or more than the federal poverty level — which is set at $14,580 per year for single-person household.

They were also most likely to be from white ethnic backgrounds.

Results also showed people who lived on their own were more likely to report symptoms of depression.

Among this group, 6.4 percent said they were experiencing depressive emotions — compared to 4.1 percent among those who live with others.

Middle-aged adults — those aged 45 to 64 years old — who lived alone had the highest proportion reporting feelings of depression, at nine percent.

For comparison, among those in this age group who lived with others 3.9 percent said they were experiencing symptoms of depression.

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2024-06-11T17:50:04Z dg43tfdfdgfd