A recent study concluded that obesity is "contagious" and that it can spread like a "virus" from one person to another. While the headlines all read as if obesity is a physical contagion, the Framingham Heart Study involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people. The participants and their relationships were closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 until 2003.
The study concluded that people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. Having an obese friend upped a person's chance of becoming obese by 57 percent. Physical proximity was less important than emotional ties and friends had more influence on weight than neighbors or family members. The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say, but most participants were gaining rather than losing weight.
While I find the study interesting, the terms contagious and viral really irritate me. I am fascinated by social influence and weight gain and think more research should be done in this sphere.
To read more on this topic, check out the New York Times article on the subject.
What do you think? In your experience, is this true. Speak up and tell me in the comments section below.