Eating dinner as a family may be easier said than done for many families. But there’s evidence that breaking bread together as often as possible is a good idea.

A report issued last week by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) shows that teenagers who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely than others to smoke tobacco, use drugs or alcohol or have friends who use such substances.

The report also found that teens who eat dinner with their families five or more times a week are 1.5 times as likely to say they have a good relationship with their mothers and twice as likely to report good relationships with their fathers and their siblings.

On the flip side, compared to those who frequently ate with their families, teens who eat with their families fewer than three times a week were almost four times likelier to use tobacco, more than twice as likely to use alcohol, two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana, and almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

The survey, which has been conducted annually for 17 years, questioned 1,037 teens and 528 of their parents over the Internet and 1,006 teens by telephone. This year, 58 percent of those surveyed reported eating dinner with their families five or more times per week, a number that’s been remarkably consistent over the past decade. And 54 percent said that their favorite thing about eating with their families, other than the food, was the opportunity to chat and catch up with their folks.

Acknowledging that today’s busy schedules make it hard to get the whole gang to sit down to supper at once, the report suggests that it’s the act of eating together, not the specific time of day, that matters. So eating breakfast together five or more times per week should work as well as getting together at dinnertime.

The report was released just in time for Family Day, which is today. The nationwide event was created and sponsored by CASA Columbia to remind parents about the benefits of eating dinner with their children.

How often does your family eat together? Do you make family meals a priority? Or is it just to hard to get everyone to the table at the same time?