News ID: 263787
Published: 0915 GMT January 01, 2020

Are your friends bad for your health?

Are your friends bad for your health?
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At the start of a new year, lots of people will resolve to make a healthy lifestyle change.

Many find resolutions like cutting back on unhealthy snacks or taking part in a weekend fitness class easier when friends and family are making the same changes, BBC reported.

However, not all decisions affecting our health are intentional, as we copy the behavior of friends, colleagues and family who we relate to and admire.

Unfortunately, we also imitate habits that are bad for our health, like smoking or eating too much.

This phenomenon means non-contagious conditions like heart disease, strokes and cancer can appear to spread from person to person like an infection.

 

Can your friends make you obese?

 

People whom we value and are in regular contact with, form our social network.

The Framingham Heart Study has studied the power of social networks since the late 1940s, by tracking three generations of residents in Framingham, a Massachusetts city.

The research indicated a person was far more likely to become obese if someone in their circle had also become obese. It suggested they were 57 percent more likely if it was a friend, 40 percent if it was a sibling, and 37 percent if it was their spouse.

The effect was more pronounced if the two people were of the same gender, and was linked to how strongly the individual felt about the other person.

For example, the Framingham study indicated a person's weight was not affected by that of a neighbor they saw daily if they didn't have a close relationship.

In unbalanced friendships, the person who saw the friendship as important was more likely to put on weight if their ‘friend’ did, but not the other way around.

The level of divorce, smoking also appeared to spread via friends and family.

These findings are important. Although we are affected by ageing and can be predisposed to certain conditions, our risk of developing the most common non-infectious diseases is significantly increased by certain behaviors:

 

• Whether you smoke

• Your diet

• How much physical activity you do

 

These non-infectious conditions — including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and lung disease — cause seven out of every 10 deaths globally and nearly 90 percent of all deaths in the UK.

   
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