Maybe you've heard somewhere that no one eats dinner together anymore. There's even some pushing the idea that instead of scrambling to eat dinner together, families should aim for breakfast. And maybe you believed that family dinners were dead, based on your household's experience.
Well, it's not true. Not nationally, anyway. And not, for that matter, in just about every state in the country.
Across the United States, roughly 88 percent of Americans still say they frequently eat dinner with other members of their household, according to a new study by the Corporation for National and Community Service. While that percentage has fallen in recent years—by roughly 2 percent since 2011—it's still remarkably high.
Perhaps even more surprising is how consistently respondents in different regions report the same overwhelming response. In more than 20 states, the percentage of people who said they frequently ate with people they lived with was at or above 90 percentage (when rounding half percentage points up); 31 states sport a higher than average rate. And in only one—New Mexico—does the percentage dip below 80 percent.
These percentages are not an exact reflection of how many families eat dinner together during the week. Respondents answered this question: During a typical month in the past year, how often did you eat dinner with any of the members of your household? Some of those people are likely young adults, living with friends (not family), whom they still might frequently eat dinner with.
But the overwhelming number of people who still say they eat dinner with members of their household, and often, is at the very least an indication of how common the practice remains. Gallup reached a similar conclusion last year, when it polled people around the country. "This seemingly traditional aspect of American life will likely continue for the foreseeable future," the polster said. The survey found that the average family eats dinner together more than 5 times a week, and nearly 60 percent of households with children younger than 18 sit down to supper six or seven nights a week.
And that's a great thing. A 2010 study at Columbia University found that teenagers who frequently ate with their families tended to use drugs less often. A separate study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who ate less often with their loved ones were more likely to be truant at school. And research at Cornell has shown that children who eat group meals at home demonstrate fewer signs of depression.