The following is excerpted from an online article posted by News Medical.
Previous research shows that family meals influence mental well-being; however, limited studies have evaluated the relationship between social eating behavior and mental disorders in adolescents.
A recent Clinical Nutrition study investigated the impact of family meals and social eating behavior on anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms in adolescents.
The current cross-sectional study evaluated data from the Eating Healthy and Daily Life Activities (EHDLA) study. The EHDLA study obtained representative samples of adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age from Valle de Ricote, Spain. The study cohort included a total of 649 adolescents, 56.7% of whom were girls.
Mental disorders were evaluated by the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21), which considered 21 symptoms that were used to score participants on a four-point Likert-type scale. In this scoring system, zero was defined as “did not apply to me at all,” with the gradual escalation in the score indicating an increase in depression, anxiety, and stress.
As compared to family meals, more social eating among friends was strongly associated with reduced anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms in Spanish adolescents. Family meals were also inversely associated with depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms.
Social eating behavior is associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms in adolescents and could be due to the protection and support that they receive from family/peers. Sharing a good meal with family and friends also improves communication with peers/family, which has a positive effect on anxiety.
Adolescents who generally eat in the company of their peers have greater peer acceptance, which prevents anxiety symptoms.