Navigation Links
Circle of Friends Key to Adopting Healthy Habits: Study

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Interested in adopting healthier habits? You have a better chance of success if you find a friend with similar traits to share the experience, a new study suggests.

Participants paired with others of similar body mass, age, fitness level and diet preferences were three times as likely to adopt healthy behaviors as those matched randomly in an Internet-based study conducted by a researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

"I think the reality is, we as individuals may have less motivation to change on our own than if we're surrounded by our peer group, even if we met on a social network site," said Dr. Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., who is familiar with the study. "We're very influenced by the group phenomenon."

The study is published in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Science.

For the study, an online social network was created to promote health and fitness. Broken into small groups of "health buddies," 710 participants were introduced to the idea of an online diet diary through a "dummy" participant who invited others to take part. Each participant was provided with a personalized, online "health dashboard" that displayed real-time information, such as daily exercise minutes, healthy behaviors and personal characteristics of the health buddies.

At the end of seven weeks, those who were matched with health buddies using the principle of "homophily" -- the tendency of people to have similar friends -- were far more likely to use the diet diary and take part in other healthy behaviors than participants whose buddies were assigned randomly. Not one obese individual signed up for the diet diary in the random networks, compared to more than 12 percent of obese participants in the similarly matched networks.

The results also suggest that the most effective social environment for increasing the willingness of obese people to adopt a behavior is one where they interact with others with similar health characteristics, the study said.

"I think it was a pretty brilliant study," said Tricia M. Leahey, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence. "It's neat that they're actually starting to manipulate a social network in a way specific to homophily."

Group therapy is also partially based on the premise that people can empathize better with others they relate to, said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"The question of whether people can benefit from role models that show how to move out of similar thinking is also part and parcel of the development of social networks," Manevitz said. "We all need to be able to interact with people who can promote other senses of self, that you can take in and create within yourself."

However, the current findings refute prior research. Leahey wrote a study published in January 2011 that indicated that overweight people tend to have more social contacts who are also overweight or obese.

"We can say, 'Gee, if I'm in a network of relatively healthy individuals and become friends with someone who's overweight or obese, we might be influenced by this one individual,'" she said. "So I guess it cuts both ways."

But Leahey said she has observed results similar to the new study in "Shape Up RI," a statewide initiative in Rhode Island that draws friends, family members and coworkers into teams to increase exercise, family meals, fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce screen time. The program has shown that group support can become a powerful driver of healthy behaviors, she said.

Ideally, Fornari and Leahey said, the findings should spur other statewide or public programs promoting healthy lifestyles either in person or on Internet-based social networks.

"Certainly, that would be an exciting opportunity and I know that more and more educational opportunities will be web-based," Fornari said.

More information

For more about healthy behaviors, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Tricia M. Leahey, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychiatry and human behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, Providence; Victor Fornari, M.D., director, child and adolescent psychiatry, North Shore-LIJ Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Alan Manevitz, M.D., clinical psychiatrist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Dec. 2, 2011, Science

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Courageous 8-year-old honored with 2011 Survivor Circle Award
2. For Teen Boys, Heavy Drinking & Impulsivity May Be Vicious Circle
3. Oral Cancer Foundation founder named Survivor Circle Award winner
4. A Circle of Hope: maurices Sells Bracelets to Benefit American Cancer Society
5. Susan Nedza MD, MBA, FACEP Named Vice President, Strategic Clinical Solutions of HealthyCircles
6. Global Premiere: Jennifer Nicole Lee, Super Fitness Model & Mega Brand, Reveals Ab Circle Mini on HSN's World Launch
7. Celebrity Trainer & Super Fitness Model Jennifer Nicole Lee on HSN Premiere Launching Hot New Ab Product, The Mini Circle
8. HealthyCircles™, A First of Its Kind Online Care Coordination Platform, to Be Featured At The HIMSS10 Conference
9. Obesity and Depression: A Vicious Circle?
10. HealthyCircles™ Partners With BridgeGate International™ to Extend Its Online Exchange of Health Information
11. Celebrity Trainer and Super Fitness Model Jennifer Nicole Lee on HSN with #1 Secret Six Pack Abs Secret, Ab Circle Pro
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Circle of Friends Key to Adopting Healthy Habits: Study
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs ... College of Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. ... treatment for skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand ... project," said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s ... within Final Cut Pro X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... As a ... Magna Cum Laude and his M.D from the David Geffen School of Medicine at ... returned to Los Angeles to complete his fellowship in hematology/oncology at the UCLA-Olive View-Cedars ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 25, 2016 , ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, Secretary of the ... to iHire in recognition of their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health promotion. , The ... Health & Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. iHire was one ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... A recent article ... are unfamiliar with. The article goes on to state that individuals are now more ... these less common operations such as calf and cheek reduction. The Los Angeles area ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... VEGAS , June 26, 2016 ... to value-based care operating models within the health care ... enable greater financial efficiency , Deloitte offers a ... the key business issues impacting efficient cost optimization: labor ... , These services facilitate better outcomes and better ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 ... Markets has announced the addition of the " ... offering. This ... and provides an updated review, including its applications in ... the total market, which includes three main industries: pharmaceutical ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... report to their offering. ... The World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the world market ... the report includes the following: , World ... Region (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , World IVD ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: