Third of families sit in silence during mealtimes, study suggests

family mealtimes silent conversation
(Image credit: Getty)

The sound of happy chat over the family dinner table is in danger of becoming a thing of the past, according to new research.

Research shows that, when they’re not struggling to find a subject to talk about, families are either staggering mealtimes or just sitting through them in silence.

And in over 40 per cent of households, people are more likely to engage with their mobile phone than with a family member.

The worrying trend was highlighted in a survey of 2,500 parents by Old El Paso to launch National Fajita Friday (September 20 2019) to urge more families to eat together.

Statistics showed that, while a third of families sit in silence during meal times, three in 10 simply struggle to find enough to talk about and four in 10 parents actually eat their evening meal at a completely different time to their kids.

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One in 10 families NEVER have dinner at the same time as the rest of their family, with just a fifth getting to sit down together every night of the week.Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: ‘To get the most out of family mealtimes, the table needs to be filled with the happy noise of conversation, chat and laughter.

‘The more we engage, the closer and more connected we feel to each other.‘And children need to be part of this as it’s a vital part of developing their social skills,’ she continued.‘There is something truly wonderful about the happy sounds produced by a vibrant family meal.’

family mealtimes silent conversation

Credit: Getty

The study also found that even when families are finally able to sit together their mealtimes are dominated by a series of distractions.

More than one in five admit they prefer to watch television rather than interact with their family.

And 44 per cent of families will stare at mobile phones while they eat.

However, for the third of families who regularly have conversations over dinner, weekend plans are among the most popular topics of conversation (47 per cent), along with school gossip (44 per cent) and the meal itself (43 per cent).

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Homework and TV shows (both 37 per cent) are also commonly held discussions at the dinner table.

‘At the end of a long day, it can be hard to muster the energy for conversation, but we mustn’t underestimate the importance it plays at mealtime,’ added Dr Papadopoulos.

‘There is evidence showing that stimulating conversation at mealtimes builds children’s confidence and self-esteem and in turn actually boost academic performance.

‘In fact, they are beneficial to the whole families mental well-being, a time for everyone to unload.

‘So it’s a good idea to try and make them part of your weekly routine.’

Aleesha Badkar
Lifestyle Writer

Aleesha Badkar is a lifestyle writer who specialises in health, beauty - and the royals. After completing her MA in Magazine Journalism at the City, the University of London in 2017, she interned at Women’s Health, Stylist, and Harper’s Bazaar, creating features and news pieces on health, beauty, and fitness, wellbeing, and food. She loves to practice what she preaches in her everyday life with copious amounts of herbal tea, Pilates, and hyaluronic acid.