Family mealtimes are good for mental health in adolescents

Family meals help adolescents maintain good mental health

Family having food togetherRegular family meals contribute to good mental health in adolescents, reveals a new study. Family meal times are a perfect measure of family interactions in the home that benefit adolescents’ wellbeing.

“More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional wellbeing, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction,” says Frank Elgar, an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry at McGill University.

The more, the better

The research team examined the correlation between frequency of family dinners and positive/negative aspects of mental health. The researchers used a national sample of 26,069 adolescents aged 11 – 15 years who participated in the 2010 Canadian Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study. Family meal time had a positive effect on the mental health of the young subjects, regardless of gender, age or family affluence.

“We were surprised to find such consistent effects on every outcome we studied,” says Elgar. “From having no dinners together to eating together seven nights a week, each additional dinner related to significantly better mental health (in adolescents).”

Family mealtimes are opportunities healthy interactions

During the study, the adolescents informed the research team about the how often in the week they had family dinners, how easily they were able to communicate with parents and five dimensions of mental health, including internalizing and externalizing problems, emotional wellbeing, more helpful behaviors and life satisfaction.

According to the authors, family mealtimes are opportunities for open family interactions through which adolescents can learn coping positive health behaviors such as good nutritional choices from parents, as well as express concerns to the parents and feel valued. Such interactions are conducive to good mental health in adolescents.



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