You are much more likely to be overweight or obese, if you are growing in a community where neighbors are overweight or obese, according to a study that examines how people around you influence your weight.
Obesity has long been known to be concentrated in some communities, and there are various theories to explain why.
They could be people with similar interests and backgrounds who are drawn to the same areas or, the weight is influenced by the environment of a community.
The new study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on January 22, supports another theory: obesity is transmitted by social influence, that is, you “catch” it from those around you.
In their work, Ashlesha Datar of the University of Southern California and Nancy Nicosia of the Research and Development Corporation wanted to answer the question: “Is it living near communities with higher rates of obesity?” Can it increase body mass index (BMI) and the risks of overweight and obesity of individuals?
According to them, the answer is yes, “which could suggest the existence of a form of social contagion,” they specify in their study.
“The social contagion about obesity means that if more people around you are obese, then it can increase your chances of becoming obese,” said co-author Ashlesha Datar, senior economist at the University of Southern California.
In other words, living in a community where obesity is more common can make sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating, and overweight or obesity more socially acceptable.