Socialize, Eat More, and Feel Better: Communal Eating in Acute Neurological Care

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Objective Stroke commonly leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially during the hospital period. The aim of the Communal Eating program was to support patient well-being through introducing opportunities for patients to eat lunch together. Design Patients admitted to the Brain Rescue Unit who were identified as appropriate by their attending physicians, nurses, or other clinicians were recruited to attend communal lunch. Their mood, quality of life, loneliness, communication, swallowing safety, and eating behavior were examined. Results Those who attended two or more sessions tended to have been lonelier and more psychosocially impaired at baseline. Patients who had one or fewer lunch showed no significant differences from baseline to posthospitalization on any measure. However, for those who ate two or more lunches, changes in loneliness and quality of life trended toward improvement. There was scant evidence of changes to communication or eating habits. Conclusion Implementing a communal eating program in the acute hospital setting was very feasible and widely supported by patients, families, and staff. The results thus far show modest trends toward fulfilling the goal of supporting emotional well-being, while potentially supporting increased intake and, importantly, do not evidence any measurable harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S38-S42
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • Acute Care
  • Communal Eating
  • Communication
  • Diet
  • Mental Health
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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