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Social Ties Linked to Weight, Dieting Among Young Adults

Young adults more likely to want to lose weight if others are doing the same

THURSDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight young adults are more likely to have overweight family members and friends than are normal-weight peers, and may be more influenced to lose weight if those around them are dieting, according to a study published online Dec. 16 in Obesity.

Tricia M. Leahey, Ph.D., of the Miriam Hospital/Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence, R.I., and colleagues examined whether obesity "clusters" among overweight young adults affected their desire to lose weight. They studied 288 young adults aged 18 to 25, who completed questionnaires to determine their number of overweight social contacts, intention to lose weight, number of social contacts trying to lose weight, and perceived social norms for obesity and dieting.

The researchers found that, compared to normal-weight individuals, overweight individuals were more likely to have overweight romantic partners, friends, and family members. Social norms did not account for the shared weight status among social ties. Both groups reported similarly low levels of social acceptability for being overweight. Overweight young adults with more social contacts trying to lose weight were more likely to intend to lose weight themselves.

"This study is the first to show that social contacts and normative beliefs influence weight status and intentions for weight control in young adults. Findings underscore the importance of targeting social influence in the treatment and prevention of obesity in this high-risk age group," the authors write.

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