NIH-Supported Study Characterizes Social Networks of Family, Friends Influencing Obesity
Your social network of friends and family seems to have an influence on your chances for developing obesity. That's the finding of a study funded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health
Schmalfeldt: Your social network of friends and family seems to have an influence on your chances for developing obesity. That's the finding of a study funded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study showed that obesity spreads within social networks and that the closer the social connection the greater the influence on developing obesity—even if people live in different households many miles apart—Dr. Richard Suzman, Director of the Behavioral and Social Science Program at the NIA, explained the significance of the study.
Suzman: There are important implications, one of which is that it may be quite difficult to lose weight by one's self and it may be much easier to lose it as part of a group or network. And I think some of the weight loss groups have recognized this.
Schmalfeldt: A sedentary lifestyle and increased consumption of high-calorie foods are critical factors in the steep rise in the prevalence of obesity, the researchers noted. But the study suggested that a hierarchy of influence exists among family and friends on developing obesity, in which the attitudes, behaviors, and acceptance of obesity also might play an important role. Now, while these findings may give pause to a person fighting "the battle of the bulge", this is not to say that you should ditch your overweight friends or shun your chubby relatives. In fact, Dr. Suzman said, the opposite is true.
Suzman: It helps if you can get the support of friends, and you work on it together. And let me say this: There are other data that show that friends and social relationships have a substantial impact on people's health and, indeed, longevity. So, keep all the friends you have, make more.
Schmalfeldt: The findings were published in the July 26, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Richard Suzman