Can Social Networks Influence Healthy Living?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Here's what some recent studies reveal-


    • Fat is catching - your friends, family and social network can make you fat (I've written extensively about this before)
    • A college roommate who is overweight can actually help you to slim down (because they may chronically diet and exercise, trying to lose weight)
    • You are what your mother ate during pregnancy - the food choices a pregnant woman makes can determine future obesity of offspring
    • Heavy parents have heavy kids - it may be partially genetics and partially home environment plus lifestyle habits that the children see modeled by parents


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    So it's not a stretch to hypothesize and wonder - Can social networks also help us to improve our health?  This was a recent column in the New York Times and the information offered was quite compelling.  Sleeplessness, smoking and reckless behavior can be encouraged by your social network, according to studies.  We also know that when you decide to diet, joining a support group or joining a program like Weight Watchers can certainly help you to succeed.  So it seems obvious that using your social network to improve your health is a no brainer.


    Think about how campaigns currently promote health change.  Some choose to use a celebrity spokesperson, assuming that if you follow that celebrity and love their fashion and other lifestyle choices, you will listen to their health recommendations too.  That's why celebrities who survive a health scare like heart disease, breast cancer, depression, are often chosen to helm a campaign.  But the social network theory might actually make even more sense, if you're trying to sway someone to say get the flu vaccine.  If people in their social network choose to do it, they may be more likely to do it, even if they heard certain myths surrounding the supposed dangers of the flu vaccine.  And certainly if you have a young adult smoker, and many of their friends decide to quit, it may be a more compelling impetus than a hot celebrity saying they ‘kicked butt."


    We may soon see companies utilize social networks, even more than they do now, to get people to choose health.  And it's not only your friends, but your friend's friends who will sway your choices and move you to change.


Published On: December 29, 2010