The effects of communal eating on perceived social support and academic success in first year college students



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Kansas State University


Family meals and meals with caregivers can be sources of social support. Current literature indicates that social support is important for physical and psychological health and well-being. There has been no published research looking at the role of communal meals in collegiate dining centers as sources of social support. This study investigated the possibility that communal meals in a collegiate dining center and eating with other people in these settings may be related to perceived social support, academic success, frequency of family meals, and/or degree of involvement in college extracurricular activities.
To investigate these relationships, first-year Kansas State University students living in the residence halls of the Derby Complex (Ford, Haymaker, Moore, and West Halls) were administered a survey about dining center usage habits. The survey included the previously tested Interpersonal Relationship Inventory Short Form by V.P. Tilden (n.d.) as a measure of perceived social support. Participants granted access to their first semester Kansas State University grade point average and semester dining center usage data. Surveys were completed online (n=216) and in paper format (n=89) for a total of 303 participants. There was no significant difference between the demographics of those that completed the online versus paper formats of the survey. Therefore, the online and paper formats of the survey were analyzed together. The data were analyzed for all participants and for males (n=94) and females (n=209) separately.
Results revealed multiple significant relationships (p<0.05). Results related to grade point average and perceived social support revealed a significant positive relationship between frequency of eating in the dining center and grade point average for all participants combined. This relationship was also noted for males and females analyzed separately. Frequency of eating with others was found to be significantly positively correlated to perceived social support score for all participants combined, and for males and females analyzed separately. Frequency of eating with others was significantly positively correlated with grade point average for males alone and females alone, but not all participants combined. Further research is needed to determine if the relationships are causal and if so, the direction of causality in the relationships.



College students, Social support, Academic success, Communal eating, Dining center

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Master of Public Health


Department of Human Nutrition

Major Professor

Sandra B. Procter