AUSTRALIAN families feel more connected while sharing dinner than any other activity but only a small minority are actually having the dinnertimes they want, new research reveals.
Researchers found 78% of Australians believed dinnertime was greatest family connector of any activity and more than three quarters wanted to make a change.
Time-poor and stressed families are sacrificing the evening sit-down, with only half of Australians eating their weekday dinners at any kind of table.
More than half sat in front of the TV to eat dinner at least once a week.
What's more, almost a third of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed admitted to eating dinner in bed at least once a week.
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The research gave psychologist Sabina Read hope Australians were willing and wanting to make a change for the better.
"I was immediately struck by the finding that three quarters of Aussies would like to change something about their household dinners, and that many of these changes focus on how we eat not what we eat," she said.
"We are hard wired to connect with each other so it makes sense that many Aussies want more laughter, fewer complaints, everyone being home or less effort involved around preparing and eating dinner.
"Admitting that we aren't content with our behaviour is the first step to changing and often small steps can help us create meaningful changes.
She said making the extra effort to sit down and chat with family over the dinner table could have more run-on effects than just the physical ones.
"Finding ways to make mealtimes more mindful will have a domino effect not only on our physical health, but also our emotional and relational well-being as well," she said.
"It's not food per se that connects us but rather what we do with the people we care about during the times we prep and eat meals."
Commissioned for Masterfoods, the Lifting the Lid on Dinnertime report 51% of respondents said they were so distracted at dinner their ability to connect with friends and loved ones was compromised.
Not surprisingly, technology topped the list of most common distractions (36%) followed by arguments with loved ones (28%), work schedules (25%) and busy household lifestyles (22%).
Sadly, about 13% of respondents said they were too isolated from friends and family to share a home-cooked meal more often.
It means more than 600,000 Australians are missing out on the important connections forged through interactions over a communal meal.