Elderly men living alone: are they at high nutritional risk?
This review article investigates the influence of living arrangements on the dietary intake and nutritional status of elderly men. Elderly men living alone have been identified as a group particularly at risk of poor dietary habits, however available evidence is inconsistent. Data from the United States suggests that low income elderly men living alone are at high risk of an inadequate dietary intake, and that a low energy intake is the most important predictor of a poor quality diet in this group. In Australia, older men living with a spouse have a better quality diet (higher nutrient density) than those living alone or with a person or persons other than a spouse, particularly regarding fruit and vegetable intake; differences in nutrient intake are not explained by lower energy intakes. In contrast, older men in European countries who live alone appear to have a more favourable dietary intake as compared to their counterparts in other living arrangements. Information on the association between living arrangements and household food security in the elderly in developing countries is sparse, however single living among older men is rare and the ethos of the extended family appears to remain intact. The inconsistencies in the apparent level of nutritional risk associated with living alone in elderly men in different countries necessitates the development and validation of screening programmes and nutrition services which are country-specific.