Objective: To determine the association between frequency of family meals and multiple indicators of adolescent health and well-being (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use; academic performance; self-esteem; depressive symptoms; and suicide involvement) after controlling for family connectedness.
Methods: Data come from a 1998-1999 school-based survey of 4746 adolescents from ethnically and socioeconomically diverse communities in the Minneapolis/St Paul, Minn, metropolitan area. Logistic regression, controlling for family connectedness and sociodemographic variables, was used to identify relationships between family meals and adolescent health behaviors.
Results: Approximately one quarter (26.8%) of respondents ate 7 or more family meals in the past week, and approximately one quarter (23.1%) ate family meals 2 times or less. Frequency of family meals was inversely associated with tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use; low grade point average; depressive symptoms; and suicide involvement after controlling for family connectedness (odds ratios, 0.76-0.93).
Conclusions: Findings suggest that eating family meals may enhance the health and well-being of adolescents. Public education on the benefits of family mealtime is recommended.