A growing body of research suggests that children and adolescents who share frequent meals with their families report better nutrition indicators, family relationships and mental health. Yet, little research has examined whether parents who share meals with their families report the same indicators of wellbeing. The current paper addresses this question using population-based survey data and a sample of parents in the United States (n = 889, mean age 31 years) that responded to the fourth wave of the Project EAT study in 2015-16. Multiple regression models were used to examine associations between frequency of family meals and indicators of nutritional, social and emotional wellbeing, controlling for demographic and household characteristics. Analyses also examined if associations were moderated by sex, as mothers tend to be more responsible for household and childcare tasks. Results suggested that parent report of frequent family meals was associated with higher levels of family functioning, greater self-esteem, and lower levels of depressive symptoms and stress (p-value for all <0.001). Frequency of family meals was also related to greater fruit and vegetable consumption (both p < 0.05), but was unrelated to other indicators of parent body size and nutritional wellbeing. Associations between frequency of family meals and parent wellbeing were similar for both mothers and fathers. Findings from the current study suggest that frequent family meals may contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of parents. Future strategies to promote family meals should consider the potential impacts on the health and wellbeing of the whole family.
Keywords: Adult; BMI; Family meal; Health; Nutrition; Parent.
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