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Overweight Young Adults Often Have Overweight Friends, Sweethearts
Date:1/14/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who are overweight or obese tend to befriend and date people who are also overweight or obese, new research indicates.

The finding echoes previous research that found health behaviors, and their results, "cluster" within social networks, said study author Dr. Tricia M. Leahey, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School and Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence, R.I.

"We found that overweight people do have more social contacts who are overweight and are more likely to have an overweight romantic partner or best friend," Leahey said.

Overweight and obese youth in the same age group also tend to have more overweight relatives, although not more overweight classmates or colleagues. The study was published in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Obesity.

Previous research from Harvard Medical School has found that a person's chance of becoming obese increases 57 percent if a friend becomes obese, 40 percent if a sibling becomes obese, and 37 percent if a spouse becomes obese.

While Leahey found that overweight young adults tend to have more overweight casual friends and social contacts then do normal weight young adults, there was a bright spot in her research. The results "suggest if [overweight young adults] have more social contacts trying to lose weight, they have greater intentions to lose weight" as well.

For the study, which included 151 participants of normal weight and 137 overweight or obese men and women, Leahey's team asked the volunteers to complete questionnaires about their weight, height, the number of overweight social contacts and their perceived social norms for obesity and obesity-related behaviors.

Interestingly, she and her colleagues found that both the normal weight and overweight participants reported sim
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