Everyone knows that eating with a friend at a restaurant is better than eating alone at a restaurant, right? Even if it’s only to avoid the looks you imagine waiters are giving you when you’re not looking. While avoiding judgment from wait staff may or may not be a perk of dining with a friend, it turns out there are very real benefits from sharing a meal with others. As society becomes busier, meal replacement solutions are being touted as a way to increase productivity and improve your hustle. However, science is repeatedly showing you’re better off taking time away from your work and enjoying food in the company you care about. Revolutionary, right?
Stronger Relationships Mean Longer Lives
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of eating with friends and family is that it can help you stay alive. A study published by PLOS Medicine Journal found that strong social connections can improve your odds of survival by a whopping 50% - a similar health benefit to quitting smoking and an even greater benefit than losing weight. While the study didn't focus specifically on the participants' eating habits, time spent dining with others can definitely provide opportunities to build stronger social connections.
Quality Time Reduces Conflict
In addition to living longer, a 2008 study published in Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal by Brigham Young University found that communal dinners can influence your perception of your workplace. The study also indicated that dinnertime in a family setting kept female employees from feeling increased work-family conflict even while working up to 60 hours a week.
Greater Health Benefits for Kids
Kids can also gain benefits from eating together. A report produced by the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University suggests that children may be 35% less likely to develop an eating disorder, 24% more likely to choose a healthier diet and be 12% less likely to be at an unhealthy weight level if they eat meals with their families. The report suggested that the source of these benefits could be a lower level of depressive symptoms, meaning eating together can help kids combat depression. The report recommends eating together as a family a minimum of three times a week to reap these health benefits.
The Family of One
Singles that live alone or with roommates that they're not particularly close to are not exempt from the need to eat communally, and there are options for those who may lack the built-in connections that a significant other or extended family provides. Apps like Meetup offer opportunities to find local connections for shared hobbies (including eating), while Grouper sets up groups on a mass blind date (again, presumably around the premise of eating together). If you can't rally a group of friends together or don't have particularly strong social connections in the area, FoodFriends lets you see who's near you and down to chow. These apps can be a great way to get to know people long-term and find instant social interaction in the short-term.
No matter what your living situation, sharing meals with family, friends or even strangers can be a great way to improve your health, establish beneficial connections and increase longevity. If this isn't your regular routine, try starting with one meal a week and eventually working your way up. All it takes is a little planning to reap a whole lot of benefits.