OBJECTIVE: The epidemiology of family meals among adults at a population level is poorly characterized and whether living with children impacts this health behaviour is uncertain. We determined the prevalence of family meals among US adults in a mid-western state whose families did and did not include minor children and described how it varied by sociodemographic characteristics.
DESIGN: The cross-sectional 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey is representative of Ohio adults and included questions on their sociodemographic characteristics and the frequency with which they eat family meals at home.
SETTING: Trained interviewers administered landline and cell phone surveys to adults sampled from Ohio's non-institutionalized population.
SUBJECTS: We analysed data from 5766 adults living with minor children and 8291 adults not living alone or with children.
RESULTS: The prevalence of family meals was similar for adults who did and did not live with minor children: 47 % (95 % CI 46, 49 %) of adults living with and 51 % (95 % CI 50, 53 %) of adults living without children reported eating family meals on most (six or seven) days of the week. Family meal frequency varied by race/ethnicity, marital and employment status in both groups. Non-Hispanic African-American adults, those who were not married and those who were employed ate family meals less often.
CONCLUSIONS: Adults in Ohio frequently shared meals with their family and family meal frequency was not strongly related to living with children. Broadening the scope of future studies to include adults who are not parents could enhance our understanding of the potential health benefits of sharing meals.