Thursday, July 26, 2007

A New Study Calls Obesity "Socially Contagious"

According to a new study published in the July issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity is now considered to be "socially contagious." Researchers from Harvard University and University of California (San Diego) suggest that obesity can be spread person to person - what they term socially contagious. The study goes on to say that if a person you consider a friend becomes obese, then your own chances of becoming obese are increased by 57%. Among mutual friends, the effect is even stronger, increasing if you can believe it to 171%.

The co-authors of the study Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and James Fowler of UC San Diego, also looked at the influence between siblings, spouses and even neighbors. If someone becomes obese among siblings, the likelihood for the other to become obese increases to 40% and among spouses that number is 37%. The investigators of the study also noted that there was no effect among neighbors, unless they were friends.

“This is about people's ideas about their bodies and their health,” Fowler said. “Consciously or unconsciously, people look to others when they are deciding how much to eat, how much to exercise and how much weight is too much.”

To read the entire article in the New England J of Medicine please visit

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