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Appetite. 2003 Oct;41(2):181-90.

Commensal eating patterns: a community study.

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  • 1Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, MVR Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Commensality is eating with other people, and commensal eating patterns reflect the social relationships of individuals. This study examined usual meal partners in commensal units and frequency of eating with others in commensal circles among 663 adults responding to a mailed questionnaire in one community. Meal partner data revealed that most respondents ate alone at breakfast, alone or with co-workers at lunch, and with family members at dinner. Commensal frequency data revealed some eating at the homes of other family members, little eating at friends' homes, and almost no eating at neighbors' homes. Few demographic variations existed in commensal eating, except that unmarried individuals more often ate breakfast and dinner alone and more often ate with friends. These finding suggest that contemporary work-oriented society may lead people to eat alone during the day but share evening meals with family, and that people maintain commensal relationships primarily with family members rather than friends or neighbors. Peoples' social worlds appear to be focused on the nuclear family, and family members are also the people they usually eat with.

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