Family Meals Can Fortify Teens' Well-Being

Study found more time spent breaking bread meant less time in trouble

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FRIDAY, Aug. 6, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Family meals may fuel the health and well-being of adolescents, says a University of Minnesota study in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers examined data from Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), a survey of 4,746 middle and high school students in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area conducted during the 1998-99 school year.

The survey found 26.8 percent of the students reported eating at least seven meals with their family in the previous week and 33.1 percent reported never eating with their families or eating with them one or two times per week at most.

"Frequency of family meals was inversely associated with tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use; low grade-point average; depressive symptoms, and suicide involvement," the study authors wrote.

"We found family mealtimes to be a potentially protective factor in the lives of adolescents for nearly all of these variables, particularly among adolescent girls," the authors noted.

"In examining relationships between family meals and dependent variables controlling for related risk behaviors, we found that family meals were protective against some substance use even when use of other substances may have already been initiated. We did not find that family meals continued to be protective in the area of emotional health; however, this may be because of the progressive, casual relationship among these variables," the authors wrote.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has advice on understanding your teen's emotional health.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 2, 2004

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