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Cooking interventions found to have positive impacts on confidence and self-esteem

Farmer N, Touchton-Leonard K, Ross A. Psychosocial benefits of cooking interventions: A systematic review Health Education & Behaviour. 2018; 45(2): 167-180.

Review question

      What is the current research literature regarding the influence of cooking interventions on psychosocial health outcomes?


      Cooking is a familiar task of daily living involving physical engagement and executive function utilization. As such, it has been used extensively in various fields as a way to develop and assess cognitive and physical abilities.

      Cooking tasks have been used in clinical populations, for example, to evaluate motor skills in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and in the elderly.

      Assessment of the ability to perform cooking tasks has also been used to evaluate executive function in individuals with traumatic brain injury and substance abuse.

      Although cooking interventions have commonly been used in therapeutic and rehabilitative settings, little is known about the influence of these interventions on psychosocial outcomes.

      The aim of this systematic review is to assess the state of current research literature regarding the influence of cooking interventions on psychosocial health outcomes.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of four research databases for eligible studies.

      Key words used in the literature search included cooking, culinary, baking, cookery, food preparation, kitchen, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, mood, psychosocial, affect, confidence, self-confidence, self-esteem, socialization, and mental health.

       Human studies involving adults and published in English were included if they focused on psychosocial outcomes related to cooking interventions.

      A total of 377 articles were retrieved from the initial search, of which 11 were included in this review.

      No specific funding or conflicts of interest were declared for this review.

What the researchers found

      Findings from this review were organized into four broad themes: Confidence and self-esteem; Socialization; Mood and Affect; and Factors affecting wellbeing and health-related quality of life.

      Two research studies reported changes in confidence and/or self-esteem as a result of participation in structured cooking interventions. One of the studies reported that participation in baking sessions led to improved self-esteem, primarily as a result of increased concentration, coordination, and confidence.

      All the studies reviewed involved repeated participation in a cooking group, and all had other group activities including either a group meal, group clean-up, or group discussion – all apt opportunities for socialization to occur. The community kitchen studies had many such group activities, and all showed a positive influence on socialization.

      Three studies examined the effect of cooking interventions on mood and affect. Although all three studies occurred in different settings and outcomes were measured using different tools, each respective cooking intervention produced positive impacts on the mood and affect of its participants.

      Two studies examined outcomes related to well-being or quality of life. Both studies demonstrated statistically significant positive impacts on self-reported quality of life post-cooking intervention.


      Overall, the review authors reported cooking interventions may have benefits that extend beyond nutrition. They may be helpful in increasing motivation and frequency of cooking.

      This review suggests that cooking interventions may positively influence psychosocial outcomes. Review authors call for further, more rigorous study to strengthen this claim.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.
The body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.

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