Nearly all parents who took part in a survey reported that regularly sitting down together for meals reduces stress levels in their families.

The American Heart Association polled 1,000 people and found that enjoying mealtimes with others could be a simple, easy way to combat stress.

Chronic stress is linked to a greater risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

The survey found that 84% of participants wished they could share a meal more often with family and loved ones.

Dr Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins University and a co-author of the American Heart Association’s statement on Psychological Health, Well-being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection, said: “Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduces stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids.

“Chronic, constant stress can also increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important for people to find ways to reduce and manage stress as much as possible, as soon as possible.”

Every Tuesday throughout December, the American Heart Association will be sharing practical and budget-friendly meal ideas to encourage people to come together. People can access the tips by following #TogetherTuesday on social media.

Dr Michos said: “We know it’s not always as easy as it sounds to get people together at mealtime. Like other healthy habits, give yourself permission to start small and build from there.

“Set a goal to gather friends, family or co-workers for one more meal together each week. If you can’t get together in person, think about how you can share a meal together over the phone or a computer.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 67% of people said sharing a meal reminds them how important it is to connect with other people
  • 54% said it also reminds them to take a break and encourages them to slow down
  • 59% said they are more likely to opt for healthier food when eating with other people
  • Survey respondents reported eating alone about 50% of the time
  • 69% of workers said they would feel less stressed if they had more time to take a break and eat a meal with a co-worker.

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