BACKGROUND: Adults, regardless of whether they are parents, regularly eat meals with family at home, but few studies have analyzed large, population-based samples to examine how mealtime practices or family meal frequency are associated with health.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate associations between the frequency of family meals eaten at home, watching television or videos during family meals, and consumption of meals that were cooked and eaten at home and the odds of being obese in adults.
DESIGN: This was an analysis of the cross-sectional 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey (OMAS), a telephone survey of Ohio's population.
PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: The study sample was adult Ohio residents responding to the 2012 OMAS who ate at least one family meal in the past week (n=12,842).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥30), calculated from self-reported height and weight, was the outcome.
STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Logistic regression models were used to examine the association between obesity and family meal practices, adjusted for respondents' employment status, marital status, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and age.
RESULTS: Family meal frequency was not associated with odds of obesity: those who ate family meals most (6-7) days were as likely as those who ate family meals few (1-2) days to be obese (adjusted odds ratio [ORadj]=1.01, 95% CI=0.86, 1.18). Thirty-six percent of adults never watched television or videos while eating family meals, and 62% ate family meals that were all home-cooked. Adults who never watched television or videos during family meals had 37% lower odds of obesity compared with those who always did (95% CI=0.54, 0.73), regardless of family meal frequency. Adults whose family meals were all home-cooked had 26% lower odds of obesity than those who ate some or no home-cooked family meals (95% CI=0.62, 0.88). This association was more pronounced among adults who ate few family meals.
CONCLUSIONS: Family meal practices may be associated with obesity in adults, even if they eat few family meals per week. Future research should examine more aspects of shared meals and investigate which specific practices may impact obesity risk.