Disordered eating among Arab and Jewish youth in Israel: The role of eating dinner with the family

Roni Elran-Barak, Michal Bromberg, Tal Shimony, Rita Dichtiar, Nisim Mery, Lesley Nitsan, Lital Keinan-Boker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Disordered eating (DE), defined as unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors, is considered a major public health problem among adolescents. Nevertheless, rates of DE among Arab and Jewish adolescents in Israel are still unknown. Furthermore, while previous studies have highlighted the role of frequent family meals as a protective factor against DE, studies examining home family dinners relative to other common dinner options (e.g., eating at home alone, eating out of the home, not eating dinner at all) are largely unavailable. We sought to use representative data of middle and high-school children in Israel in order to identify rates of DE among Arabs and Jews, while examining the relations of home family dinners (vs. other dinner options) with DE. Methods: A nationally representative school-based survey of 4926 middle and high-school children (11-19 years old) was conducted during 2015-2016. Participants indicated where and with whom they had eaten dinner the day before. The 5-item SCOFF questionnaire was used (> 2 affirmative items were considered a likely case of DE). Height and weight were measured by personnel. Results: DE was more prevalent among girls (29.7%) relative to boys (12.2%), Arabs (25.1%) relative to Jews (19.5%), and older (25.3%) relative to younger (17.6%) adolescents. Arabs were more likely to eat dinner at home with parents/family (chi2 = 10.75, p =.001), or not to eat dinner at all (chi2 = 63.27, p <.001), while Jews were more likely to eat dinner alone (chi2 = 5.37, p =.021) or to eat dinner out of the home (chi2 = 67.65, p <.001). Logistic regressions (stratified by ethnicity and adjusted for gender, age, weight) revealed that family dinners acted as a protective factor against DE, relative to eating out of the home or relative to not eating dinner at all among both ethnic groups, and relative to eating dinner alone among Arabs. Conclusion: There are differences between Arab and Jewish adolescents in terms of rates of yesterday's family dinners and DE. Given that eating dinner with the family was linked with lower rates of DE, possible interventions to reduce DE may include educating parents of both Arab and Jewish adolescents regarding the importance of family meals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Arab
  • Disordered eating
  • Ethnic minority
  • Family meals
  • Israel
  • Jewish
  • Youth
  • Meals/psychology
  • Humans
  • Israel/epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Arabs/psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders/diagnosis
  • Adolescent
  • Family Relations/psychology
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Child
  • Jews/psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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