New Study Shows Your Friends May Be Making You Gain Weight

women-eating-junk.bmpWe often emulate our friends – whether it is our selection of shoes, clothing, hair and skin care products, etc. I know that when I see a great dress or pair of shoes that one of my friends is wearing, my first question is – where did you get that? Second question, do you mind if I buy the same? (and of course, I will not wear it on the same day as you do!)

Now a new study shows that we can emulate other behaviors from our friends – becoming obese. This study involved more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years and demonstrated that the social network plays a major role in the development of obesity.

Here are some of the findings:
– When one spouse became obese, the other was 37% more likely to do so in the next 2-4 years (compared with other couples)

– If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40%

– But the greatest risk was among friends. In the same sex relationships (ie. citygirls and their girlfriends), the risk was  between 57-171%

– Siblings and spouses had less of an effect than friends, supporting the idea that the study’s findings were not the result of people eating the same food, engaging in the same activities of sharing genes

– The increased risk of obesity occurred only if the second person (initially non-obese) considered the obese person to be a friend. If not, the increased risk did not occur.

While we know that obesity is not “contagious”, these findings suggest that once a person becomes obese (for whatever reason), it may make it more socially acceptable for people close to him/her to gain weight. The researchers even speculated that friends getting together pnly once or twice a year had just as much an impact as friends who live next door to each other.

The researchers believed that this study shows the social networking of people play a major role in the development of obesity. “People are more likely to copy the actions of people they resemble…what we have going on here is emulation”.

Lastly, the researchers cautioned that people should not sever relationships with their obese friends nor should they stigmatize obese people. However, the results of this study support forming relationships with people who have healthful lifestyles.

For more details, check out: Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates

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