You are what you meet: The contagious nature of health risks

November 23, 2015
Kyung Jin Kim  Valencia High School  Junior

Kyung Jin Kim
Valencia High School

The saying “you are what you eat” has recently been supplemented with another phenomenon: you are who you meet.

Friends, family, and the community greatly influence life habits of a person. The latest studies prove that this is particularly true regarding a person’s health.

According to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, the environment strongly determines the likelihood of disease or health problems such as obesity. In fact, people in regular contact with an obese friend or family member are 57% more likely to become obese themselves.

Additionally, people who have close friends become obese have 171% greater chance of following suit.

Dr. Nicholas Christakis, professor at Harvard medical School, explains that “You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you.”

Also, proximity to the obese individual does not matter; essentially, an obese friend hundreds of miles away still increases your chance of obesity.

These two factors may contribute to what scientists coin the “obesity epidemic” taking over America, as the rate of overweight individuals continues to rapidly increase along with the years. The study reveals why cases like “sympathy weight,” where fathers gain weight alongside the pregnant mothers, exist. On average, men gain 14 pounds throughout the nine months. Seeing the mother’s stomach grow larger and her constant food cravings rub off on the fathers.

Community not only influences obesity, but heart disease, too, as reported by the Framingham Heart Study, a federal research project.

The study tracked the population of Framingham, Massachusetts for decades to reap its startling results. Even heart disease appears to follow the saying. One reason for this chain effect is that people with heart disease often lead unhealthy lifestyles and diets that their friends adopt.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people should drop their friends with medical conditions. As Dr. Rudolph Leibel of Columbia University describes, this effect is simply an “extraordinarily subtle and sophisticated [study]… on the environment’s [affects].” Hopefully, future studies will reveal how to negate those effects or how to produce positive ones.






One Comment

  1. kelly

    November 27, 2017 at 10:56 AM

    yes..I like the basic concepts behind Second Life but it seems incredibly outdated and when I played it was intensely non-intuitive / user friendly to an extent that made EVE look like a game for toddlers. thanks from