The holiday season is a time for family gatherings. But how many of us make a point to spend time with our families when the holidays are over? The simple act of having dinner with one’s family on a regular basis can benefit academic performance, health outcomes and general life satisfaction.
Nowhere do families make more time for each other than in South Dakota, where 93 percent of respondents in a survey conducted for the Corporation for National and Community Service said they eat dinner with their families daily or several times a week. That’s more than five points higher than the national average of 87.8 percent who said the same. More than 92 percent of respondents in South Carolina, Nebraska, and Indiana said they share meals regularly with members of their households, and more than 91 percent in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Vermont and Wyoming do, too.
Children who grow up in homes where families spend time together reap the benefits. A University of Illinois study of 120 boys and girls ages 7 to 11 found a correlation between children who ate dinner with their parents and those who performed well in school. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University also found that teenagers who spend mealtimes with their families are more likely to receive A’s in school than their peers who see family less frequently.
The Columbia University center has also found that teens who eat dinner with families twice a week or less are four times more likely to take up smoking and almost twice as likely to drink alcohol than kids who have dinner at home more often. The more time they spend with family, the more likely teens are to be emotionally content and have positive peer relationships.
A University of Minnesota study found that teens are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and other foods with necessary vitamins at home than anywhere else. Teenage girls who eat more frequent family meals are less likely to go on dangerous diets.
Families in Washington are some of the least likely to make time for each other. Just 79.4 percent of District of Columbia families said they ate dinner together on a regular basis, the second-lowest percentage after New Mexico’s 76.5 percent. Families in Maryland and Virginia are slightly less likely to dine together than the national average.
Reid Wilson writes for The Washington Post.