Shrinking meal times, increasing presence of gadgets at dinners, finds British survey

The average British dinner lasts just 21 minutes, according to a survey published Saturday which found increasingly busy schedules a barrier to eating together. A total of 55% of families have a smartphone, computer or television present when eating together, according to the survey for supermarket chain Co-op Food. People said increasingly busy lives and conflicting schedules got in the way of dinner.

A total of 57% of respondents said they do not eat with their family every night. Around half of Britons would like to challenge the status quo, with 47% saying they would like the have a meal at home or with family more often. “Families continue to recognise the social importance of sharing food and identify eating together as an activity that most brings them happiness and a sense of togetherness,” said Patrick Alexander from the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre.

“What eating together means, however, is changing. Screen time during mealtimes, for example, is now common for the vast majority of families,” he added. The survey found 20% of households do not have a dining table. A three-course meal at home is now very rare, with just 2% of people preparing such a feast on a regular basis. The poll was conducted by market research firm Opinion Matters, which quizzed 2,164 people over five days earlier this month.