Why is dining together so important?

Our lives are incredibly busy and the simple social pleasure of dining together usually takes a low priority.  In fact, statistics show that 1/3 of Canadians almost never eat together.  Yet, inherently, I’ve always felt that dining together was important due to my Irish heritage.  My travels to Europe have reinforced that notion.  Europeans make it a priority to have dinner together and this is not just a quick meal; they sit together and make that dinner an event with lively discussion, food, and wine.  It doesn’t matter if they are at home or out with friends – that dining experience is important to them in a cultural and societal sense.

That twigged an interest in the scientist in me.  If a ritual like dining has been preserved in a culture there must be benefits or it would have died out.  Interestingly, it turns out eating together socially has numerous benefits as shown by recent UK research.

  1. People who dine together are happier and more satisfied with their lives.
  2. Dining together makes people more trusting of others.
  3. Engagement with the local community increased in those who shared meals together.
  4. Those who eat socially have more friends they can depend on for support.

It is even more interesting to note that evening meals appear special.  Those meals with their larger groups with more laughter and reminiscing, as well as wine, resulted in people feeling closer to their fellow diners.

It’s clear that dining together has been shown to improve our individual health and help us with the feeling of isolation we experience in our fast paced, modern digital world.  So, let’s take a page from our European friends.  Take a moment, slow down, breathe, and book time to dine with family and friends regularly.  It will make us healthier, happier, and might even make our society a little more caring.  Cheers!