A study has discovered a surprising side effect of empty nest syndrome.
Allen Carr Addiction Clinics polled 1,000 parents and found 40% of them admitted to increasing habits such as smoking, drinking and gambling since their final child left home.
The average spend on habits was £240 a month and one in four parents admitted to drinking booze during the day.
John Dicey, Global Managing Director of Allen Carr Addiction Clinics said: “It’s fabulous that empty nesters are enjoying their freedom after their children have left home, but some of these findings are alarming."
The report described these parents who turn to bad habits as "Mum and Daddicts".
In the poll, 67% admitted to hiding how much they spend each month from their family, and 13% lied to a family member about how much they spend on their bad habits.
Their partner (64%) was the person most likely to be deceived, followed by their adult children (30%).
The report also uncovered some extreme lengths parents go to in order to hide their habits from their family.
- A quarter (24%) of middle-aged adults admitted adding alcohol to soft drinks to mask how much booze they were drinking.
- 22% admitted indulging alone to avoid causing concern amongst the family and 16% said they have hidden junk food around the house.
- Almost one in five (18%) borrowed money from outside the family to cover up a gambling debt.
- 17% admit they have smoked behind the garden shed to avoid detection when their children return home for a visit.
Surprisingly, 24% of parents felt they had to lie so their children wouldn't be disappointed in them, but 10% lied because they didn't want to be nagged about their health.
When questioned on why they turned to these habits, 31% admitted it's simply because they had more time on their hands, and 23% said they "no longer feel they need to set an example" after their kids left.
However, 12% of parents said it was because they were lonely without children around all the time.
Dicey said: "There is much to admire and encourage on the harmless side of empty nesters enjoying their pre-retirement years.
"But it’s useful to be made aware that lying to your family and concealing consumption can be the beginning of some of the emotional and financial issues addiction can cause.”
The clinic also looked at the differences in regional habits and found that parents in London have the highest spend per month on their feeding habits, with an average bill of £394.27.
Scottish parents had the lowest spend of £85.89 per month.