A new study that looked at 32 years of data shows that your chubby pals might be making you fat. No seriously, researchers looked at a long term heart disease study that tracked people's weight as well as their friends and family members. By analyzing connections in people's social network they found that when one person gained weight, their friends were more likely to gain weight as well. Interestingly the effect was stronger with friends than it was with families.
The article above features more formal speculation by the scientists about the reasons for this correlation. However, in my unprofessional opinion this makes tons of sense. I mean acceptable body size and eating habits seem heavily affected by the people you hang out with. Eating is almost always social for me and as a result there is social pressure to eat in similar ways to everyone else I know. I mean I sure don't take the ladies on dates to Burger King, but then again when I am hangin' with some more "shlubby" of my "dude" pals I am more likely to strap on the feed bag at the OCB. But for the most part my friends eat healthy and in moderation and as result so do I...most of the time.
I've even experienced social pressure to reign in bad eating habits. I am a bit of a candy addict...that's probably an understatement. You know when you find your self at Super America at 3am buying a creamy long john, nerd rope, 32oz. of Coke, and a pack of Chewey Runts, well you have a problem. But, I digress. Since these habits fall outside of the norm for my social group I regularly feel pressured not to engage in this obviously detrimental behavior. Which, trust me, isn't a bad thing.
I would love to see more studies looking at the social aspects of the obesity epidemic. And I especially would love to hear your ideas on this subject.