Dinner is Ready - The Importance of Eating as a Family

Submitted by connor@tamarack... on May 31, 2017 - 3:09am

How we eat our food is changing along with the culture surrounding it. Since everyone in the world is busy and always moving, we don’t always have time to sit down and eat. It’s more convenient to grab a bite on the go and get back to our busy work life. However, this change in how we eat, is creating negative health consequences at the family level.

There is a rather substantial amount of research suggesting that sitting down and eating meals with your family is good for your mental health; specifically, for youth. There are a handful of studies done on this topic, but I will be focusing solely on an article  published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by Frank Elgar Ph.D., Wendy Craig Ph.D. and Stephan Trites M.A. 

The study had a large sample of just over 26,000 adolescents with ages ranging from 11 to 15.1 Each youth filled out a survey that touched on the number of times they ate dinner as a family, how easy it is to talk with their parents and the five dimensions of mental health.1

The results of this study were positive in respect to the researchers’ hypothesis. The researchers found that amount of family dinners in a week increases, variables like pro-social behavior and life satisfaction increased, while variables like internalizing problems decreased.1

A few other interesting findings are listed below:

  • Communicating with parents was more difficult for female adolescents and for youth in higher grades, but less difficult if they are affluent.1
  • Generally speaking, the more family dinners, the better mental health experienced.1
  • The strength of the relationship for each of the five mental health dimensions was similar across gender, affluence and age groups.1

 I find this research fascinating. There are so many possible variables to test. I am curious if there are similar correlations between eating out at a restaurant with a family, having big family feasts or if there is a difference between home cooked meals versus ordering in. This was a great study that had a great sample size, a strong methodology and of course, a great topic.

            Did you like this blog? Want to talk about the topic further? Let me know! Send me an email: connor@tamarackcommunity.ca!


Elgar FJ, Craig W, Trites SJ. Family dinners, communication, and mental health in Canadian Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2013 Apr 30; 52(4):433-8.

Further Reading: