Study finds links between obesity and adolescents' social networks

July 16, 2009

Researchers from the Institute of Prevention Research at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) found in a recent study that overweight youth were twice as likely to have overweight friends.

"Although this link between obesity and social networks was expected, it was surprising how strong the peer effect is and how early in life it starts," says lead author Thomas Valente, Ph.D., professor of at the Keck School of Medicine.

The study appears in the August issue of the , available online July 20 at

Previous data had shown a connection between overweight adults and their social peers. However, the USC study used more advanced statistical modeling techniques than previous research and the association remained strong, Valente says.

"The findings certainly raise health concerns because when kids start associating only with others who have a similar weight status it can reinforce the negative behaviors that cause obesity," he says.

In-school surveys were conducted among 617 students ages 11-13 from the greater Los Angeles area. In addition to finding that overweight adolescents were more likely to have overweight friends than their normal-weight peers, the researchers also found that overweight girls were more likely to name more friends, but less likely to be named as a friend than normal-weight girls.

"Researchers tend to focus mainly on health consequences when talking about weight with adolescents," Valente says. "But we also need to be sensitive to the reality that there can be a social cost for overweight youth as well."

Interventions should take these peer constructs into account, he says. For parents and educators, this may mean being conscious of potential social consequences that children may suffer as a result of being overweight; and acknowledge that many of the behaviors which contribute to are social in nature."

He pointed out that more longitudinal studies are needed for further recommendations on the relationship between being overweight and social status among adolescents.

Source: University of Southern California (news : web)

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not rated yet Jul 16, 2009
Wait so social riddicule from all my skinny friends was good for me. As I have moved into my young adult hood I have found that seeing friends who were previously fat become skinny over time through diet and exercise(sometimes other worse habbits) I have actualy been encouraged and motivated to get off my ass and do something about my body size. Thats just me.
not rated yet Jul 16, 2009
How about a study that shows the link between how much parents and educators say they care but don't do anything about it except talk and do studies. It drives me nuts how much I hear about how "concerned" school systems/people are about youth obesity. Yet if you walk down the halls and into the cafeteria and most of what you see is soda machines, candy machines, and junk food. It's like having an AA meeting in a bar.

Parents are the biggest and most important influence on kids eating habits. Not kid's social networks. Do social networks influence bad behavior? Of course. But let's get to the root of the problem. The parents allow their children to eat crap and the schools reinforce it by offering crap food in vending machines.

I will give my highest praises to any school who removes junk food, encourages healthy exercise, and tries to educate kids about importance of good food choices and the perils of America's "fast food" culture.

Junk food is like a drug. I've had to overcome my "addiction" to it. It was one of the hardest things I've done in my life. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to try and be healthy and be surrounded by junk food at school. Schools not only need to focus on the social networks that kids create for themselves but the social networks and environments that they create for the students.

Peace. Health. Happiness.
not rated yet Jul 16, 2009
Dig the problem is the Pepsi Co. contracts and cisco contracts with the school districts. Americas schools are in bed with major food companies not only that but with most high schools how far do you have to walk to find a fast food joint.

The solution will be with the parents and teachers and media influences for those kids whos parents cant afford after school programs or the programs were cut by state budget problems, and there main icon that is home is the boob tube.

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