Teens eating with family have better emotional health

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Last holiday season, we covered a story about how eating meals as a family can improve children s eating habits. And previous research from the University of Illinois found that family meals can prevent eating disorders, obesity and inadequate nutrition. Now, in a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that eating meals as a family can also improve mental health among teenagers.

Researchers surveyed 26,000 teenagers, asking questions about the number of family dinners eaten on a weekly basis, as well as questions regarding emotional well-being, level of communication between them and their parents, life satisfaction, internalizing and externalizing problems and helpful behaviors. They found that eating meals together provided routine, consistency and good eating habits, as well as a sense of belonging and value for the teen.

Frank Elgar, lead author of the study and professor at McGill s Institute for Health and Social Policy says, More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented The benefits of eating as a family are gaining more support: It s a good idea to incorporate family dining as often as possible.