Scottish people are sociable eaters but work makes them rush lunch

SCOTLAND (261 (13.05%) of total respondents)

  • 13% said they never let weeks go by without sharing a meal whereas 34% of total respondents said they can go a whole week without eating a meal with someone else.
  • 93% said they very regularly have a proper sit down evening meal during the week and socialise
  • 5% say they often rush their weekday lunch and just over a quarter say they have too much work or are worried about work

FULL RESULTS (all nations/regions)

  • Average adult eats 10 meals a week alone (out of 21)
  • More than two thirds (69%) have never shared a meal with any of their neighbours
  • 25% always eat alone at weekends
  • Only 35% eat their evening meal with someone else

A new study reveals the eating habits of the UK, but surprisingly nearly 50% of Scottish respondents said they never let weeks go by without sharing a meal but the full UK results show 34 per cent can go a whole week without eating a meal alongside someone else.

The research, commissioned by The Big Lunch, also shows that a third of weekday evening meals are eaten in isolation, and the average adult eats 10 meals out of 21 alone every week.


Busy lives and hectic work schedules are the main causes of this solitary dining trend. Yet the study also shows that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their life and feel happy.

More than two thirds (69%) of those questioned had never shared a meal with any of their neighbours, 37% had never eaten with a community group, while a fifth of people said it had been over six months since they had shared a meal with their parents.

Even when living with others, the opportunity to sit down together and enjoy a meal can be rare – 21 per cent said their routine means they eat their evening meal at a different time to others in their household. Those over age 55 are most likely to eat alone – one in four in this age group said an evening meal with others wasn’t a usual occurrence.

Eating at work and only taking 12 minutes

More than half the ‘workers’ questioned rarely or never eat lunch with their colleagues, with a large workload the most common obstacle to the communal work lunch. The average weekday lunch is wolfed down in just 12 minutes.

Evening meals

The study also revealed that, although 57 per cent regularly eat an evening meal with other people during the week, nearly a fifth said this was a rare occurrence. This is in spite of the majority of respondents claiming that eating with others made them feel closer to each other.

Making the effort with family and friends

Little wonder then that two thirds of us admit there are certain people in our lives that we know we should make the effort to spend more time with. One in eight of those questioned said it had been more than six months since they’d shared a lunch with friends or family – either at their home or in a café, pub or restaurant. And a fifth of those questioned hadn’t eaten an evening meal out with a good friend or family member for more than six months.

The study

The Big Lunch – an idea from the Eden Project made possible by the Big Lottery Fund worked with Oxford University Professor of Psychology, Robin Dunbar, on the study, which aims to shine a light on the UK’s mealtimes and how often we eat with others.

Professor Dunbar commented: “The act of eating together triggers the endorphin system in the brain and endorphins play an important role in social bonding in humans. Taking the time to sit down together over a meal helps create social networks that in turn have profound effects on our physical and mental health, our happiness and wellbeing, and even our sense of purpose in life. But this study shows that, in the UK, we are becoming less socially engaged, with almost 50 per cent of meals eaten alone each week. 70 per cent of those questioned said they did not feel especially engaged with their local community, yet eating together did result in people feeling emotionally closer to each other. In these increasingly fraught times, when community cohesion is ever more important, making time for and joining in communal meals is perhaps the single most important thing we can do – both for our own health and wellbeing and for that of the wider community.”

Emily Watts of The Big Lunch Scotland commented: “The Big Lunch wanted to examine how often people eat with others. The amount of solitary meals eaten each week is shocking, especially as the study shows that sharing food helps feelings of closeness and friendship. The Big Lunch is about bringing people together to have lunch – to make new friends, share stories, to have fun, and form bonds that last. For most people in the UK, a network of potential friends exists right on the doorstep. An act as simple as joining us on Sunday June 12 to share a meal can bring boundless joy.”


Further enquiries or interview requests: Laura Sutherland, Aura PR

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Notes to editors:
About the research
OnePoll research commissioned amongst 2,000 UK adults by The Big Lunch March 2016
About The Big Lunch
· The Big Lunch ( is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made
possible by the Big Lottery Fund.
· The Eden Project started The Big Lunch in 2009 with the belief that we’re better equipped to tackle the challenges we face
when we face them together.
· Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall is Patron of The Big Lunch.
· Bringing communities together, reducing loneliness and isolation and helping to make a difference locally is at the heart
of the Big Lottery Fund’s mission.
· The Big Lunch is the perfect recipe for having fun with neighbours, feeding community spirit and helping to build stronger
neighbourhoods. People are the key ingredient, with those taking part creating friendlier communities in which they start
to share more – from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.
· This year there is more reason than ever to get involved and join the fun, as the annual event will take place on Sunday
June 12 2016, the same day as Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations
· Over the past seven years, Big Lunches of all sizes have happened in all kinds of communities – in streets, back gardens,
parks and local community venues. Thousands of events have taken place each year, with a whopping 7.29 million people
taking part in 2015.
· It is never too late to take part in The Big Lunch. Anyone can request a free planning pack, which contains invitations,
posters, seeds and stickers, at or by calling 0845 850 8181 to speak to one of the team.
· The Big Lunch can be found @thebiglunch on Facebook and @thebiglunch and #thebiglunch on Twitter.
· Post-event research by Havas in 2015 highlights the benefits of The Big Lunch, including: 96% of people who took part
said they would recommend The Big Lunch to their friends; 85% of Big Lunch participants said it made them feel better
about their neighbourhood; 8 out of 10 people have kept in touch with people they met at Big Lunches in previous years;
participants said the best three parts of their Big Lunch in 2015 were: 1. a great sense of community, 2. enjoying good food
and 3. meeting new people.
About Professor Robin Dunbar
Professor Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate and human
behaviour. He is currently head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental
Psychology at the University of Oxford. He is best known for formulating Dunbar’s number, a measurement of the “cognitive limit to
the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships”
About Peter Stewart MVO
Peter is an Executive Director and has responsibility for Eden’s charitable mission. This role includes responsibility for Eden’s biggest
educational outreach campaign, The Big Lunch. Peter was appointed to the main Eden Board in March 2012. In the same year he was
also awarded an MVO by HM The Queen for his work on the Diamond Jubilee, as The Big Lunch played a major part in the