Health Tips: Nourish Your Adolescent’s Mental Health

Family meal times are a measurable indicator of social exchanges in the home that benefit adolescents’ wellbeing, regardless of whether or not they feel they can easily talk to their parents, according to a recent study.

“More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors toward others, and higher life satisfaction,” says Frank Elgar PhD, an associate professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy. “We were surprised to find such consistent effects on every outcome we studied. From having no dinners together to eating together seven nights a week, each additional dinner related to significantly better mental health.”

The authors suggest that family mealtimes are opportunities for open family interactions which present teaching opportunities for parents to shape coping and positive health behaviors such as good nutritional choices, as well as enable adolescents to express concerns and feel valued, all elements conducive to good mental health in adolescents.